Sunderland sitting pretty midway through 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 

Sam Sunderland holds the lead at half way point of 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – round one of the Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.


Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland increased his overall lead in the 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with a win on the 297.97 kilometre timed third stage of the rally. 

As the fifth rider away, Sam Sunderland immediately set about chasing down the riders ahead, ultimately catching them to reach the finish together. Posting a time close to three minutes faster than second-placed Kevin Benavides, Sam now leads the provisional overall rankings by almost 13 minutes.

“Everything went well today, the weather has been a lot better with less wind, so visibility has improved.” Said Sunderland after today’s stage. “I’m feeling really good, I am really comfortable on the bike and my pace is solid, the team are doing an excellent job as usual. 

“That’s stage three done and we are past the halfway, but we still have two long days to go, so I need to stay focused right up to the last kilometre. There are a lot of traps out there and this race can easily catch you out.”


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Best of the rest

In a depleted field competing this opening round of the 2019 Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, Sunderland is racing against the Honda duo of Kevin Benavides and Jose Cornejo. Cornejo currently sits third behind Luciano Benavides with the injured Kevin Benavides brother riding injured on his HRC Rally CRF450R in fourth.

Andrew Short is also racing in the Abu Dhabi, the sole rider for the Rockstar Husqvarna team but “a technical issue on day three while riding with the lead group – which he stopped to fix on the stage – dropped him down to fifth overall. 

Other major contenders for the World Rally title – reigning and former champions Toby Price, Pablo Quintanilla and Matthias Walkner – are all sitting out injured from this opening round of the season. 

Meanwhile in Africa, Yamaha and Sherco teams are contesting the Merzouga Rally running concurrently this week. 

Provisional Results Stage Three – 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge:

  1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 4:00:27 
  2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 4:03:18 +2:51 
  3. Aaron Mare (ZAF), KTM, 4:04:47 +4:20 
  4. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 4:06:33 +6:06 
  5. Mohammed Meshari Jaffar (KWT), KTM, 4:08:31 +8:04 

Provisional Overall Standings (after Stage Three) – 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge:

  1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 11:00:24 
  2. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 11:13:12 +12:48 
  3. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 11:13:15 +12:51 
  4. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 11:23:35 +23:11
  5. Andrew Short (USA), Husqvarna, 11:45:00 +44:36
Photo credit: Rally Zone
Byline jp ISDE 2018 Enduro21
Jon Pearson
Enduro21 Editor and Bike Tester