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Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider, Sam Sunderland, takes 2019 Rally World Championship round one win at Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. 


A 351.96 kilometre final stage, with a 214.47-kilometre special testing the riders before the finish at the famous Yas Marina Circuit, offered little chance to back off for Sunderland who had to make sure of his win with a final day victory on the stage. 

Carrying a narrow 18 seconds lead over the second-placed Jose Ignacio Cornejo coming into the final stage, Sam had no chance to back-off on the race to Yas Marina. 

The timed special consisted of the large sand dunes of the Liwa Desert, in the first half of the stage, before flattening out into faster pistes as the route neared Abu Dhabi. 

Strategy plays an important role in Rally events and Sunderland’s game-plan played out perfectly as he closed the deficit by catching his rivals on the stage, as they had in the previous day to narrow his lead. 


Sam Sunderland Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Abu Dhabi 2019 Podium 560


Strategy the key to victory

Arriving at the finish, Sam won the stage by an impressive three-minutes-and-26-seconds from his team-mate Benavides and in turn claimed the rally victory by over eight minutes. 

“Things went perfectly today.” Explained Sunderland at the finish. “We knew coming into today’s final stage that we would have to stick to our planned strategy. 

“The stage brought us closer to Abu Dhabi and as such, the tracks towards the end were a lot faster away from the dunes. I knew I would have to push really hard right from the start of the special. 

“I arrived at the refuelling and the team let me know everything was good, so from there it was just a case of bringing it home safely to the finish. 

“I’m really happy with the job done by the team all week and myself in the way I rode. It’s great to get my 2019 championship off to the perfect start with a win.”


Results Stage Five – 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: 

  • Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 2:39:59 
  • Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 2:43:25 +3:26 
  • Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 2:46:42 +6:43 
  • Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 2:49:40 +9:41 
  • Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 2:53:34 +13:35

Overall Results – 2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: 

  1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 17:46:42 
  2. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 17:55:02 +8:20 
  3. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 17:56:41 +9:59 
  4. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 18:21:33 +34:51 
  5. Andrew Short (USA), Husqvarna, 18:48:22 +1:01:40
Photo Credit: Rally Zone
Byline jp ISDE 2018 Enduro21
Jon Pearson
Enduro21 Editor and Bike Tester