South African rider Ross Runnalls, racing for the Liberty Kawasaki, returned to dominant form at the final UAE baja of the season in Dubai last Friday 4th March, taking his fourth win from five events to secure both the Overall Title and the 450cc Class.

Runnalls, a multiple Dubai motocross champion was delighted to secure his opening baja title…

“Its been a great season for me so far. I had previously raced intermittently in the series over the last couple of years, but never committed to the full season until this year. 

“I’ve pushed myself really hard and I’ve been lucky to stay out of trouble most rounds. Liberty Kawasaki here in the UAE have given me a great bike to ride, and I’ll definitely be back next season to defend my title.

Runnalls emirates desert champion

“I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the organisers of the championship at the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE), as well as all the marshals and volunteers for giving their time so that myself and all the other riders could race this year”, added Runnalls.

Runnalls finished the final round an astonishing nine minutes in front of nearest rivals, Briton Olly Eveleigh and Emirati Mohammed Al Balooshi in second and third place respectively. 

Runnalls nearest championship rival, Kuwaiti Mohammed Jaffar was forced to retire with mechanical issues on the opening lap of the race, while Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team’s Sam Sunderland, the only one to seriously challenge Runnalls early in the race, was forced to retire after three laps.

Sam Sunderland emirates desert challenge

Al Balooshi finished the season second in the championship, with Eveleigh and South African Mark Ackerman tied for third place.

In the supporting classes, veteran rider Steve Blackney will be cursing the blown head gasket on his KTM that took him out of contention in the Over 450 class, opening the door for the consistent Warren Christie to take his second win of the season and secure the title.

Similarly, in the Marathon Class, a mechanical issue forced the retirement of Sam Smith of the Crazy Camel Racing Team, allowing Briton Tom Childs an easy victory on the day and first place in the championship.

In the Masters Class, former WRC driver Janne Tuohino continued to impress with his excellent form, finishing the season with his best result of 12th Overall and a win in his class to take the title. 

Janne Tuohino Masters Class

Dave McBride had a disappointing day by his standards, only finishing sixth in class, but it was enough to claim a comfortable second in class for the season, with South African Shannon O’Connor just pipping compatriot Owen Glynn to third in the championship by a single point.

In the Ladies Cup, 2014-15 Champion Sune Schaffler one on the day to bring her level on points with 2013-14 Champion Vicki Northway, with both being declared joint Champions.

Finally, the most fascinating result of the day saw Quad class winner Mansoor Al Suwaidi of the UAE beat his Saudi Arabian rival Abdulmajeed Al Khulaifi by a margin of just one second to take the quad title. 

Amazingly, if Al Khulaifi had been able to finish two seconds earlier and take the win over Al Suwaidi, it would have resulting in the Saudi winning the championship by one point!

The Emirates Desert Championship is organised by the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) and will return for its fourth season in the autumn of 2016.


Words: Stuart Murray

Photos: Tim Ansell