Back in March, our Local Focus looked at the Dubai-based Vendetta Racing UAE team ahead of the 2016 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, which took place a few weeks ago as the opening round of the FIM World Championship for Cross Country Rallies. Here’s how they got on…

The Vendetta Racing UAE team took part in the event with four Dubai-based British riders; David McBride, David Mabbs and Paul Middleton in the 450cc World Championship class on a trio of KTM 450 Rally Replicas, and Steve Blackney in the Over 450 class on a KTM EXC 500.

The event took place over six days, kicking off with a spectator stage run on a parallel ‘Race of Champions’ style circuit at Al Forsan International Sports Resort, before moving into the desert for five days of stages, averaging 400kms per day.

Steve Blackney tackles a wet Prologue Stage at Al Forsan Sports Club in Abu Dhabi 840

Each of the Vendetta Racing UAE team started as veterans of the event, with McBride having competed in almost every edition since motorcycles were introduced in 1995, while Middleton and Mabbs each had four previous starts in the race on a bike (Mabbs additionally had completed several times in the Auto category). Blackney was making his return to the event for the first time in many years to mark his tenth, and supposedly, final appearance.

All riders made a great start to the event, with McBride on the edge of the top ten after the prologue and first stage, and Blackney comfortably leading the Over 450 class. However, disaster struck on Stage 2 of the event, when, following a morning where each team member had experienced minor falls, Blackney misjudged a small jump off a dune. Landing heavily on the rear wheel and fully compressing his suspension, the rest of the force going into his back. 

Almost all the team toasting the finish of another event at Yas Marina Circuit 1080

After being airlifted to the hospital, two damaged vertebrae were diagnosed. Steve has since undergone surgery back home in Dubai and is on the road back to a full recovery, although it remains to be seen if his Doctor or Wife will let him near a bike again in the future!

“Losing Steve was a huge blow for the team, especially happening before the midway point of the rally. We’re all close friends and our main concern is that everyone makes it safely out of the desert, but we’re all racers too, and accept that sometimes these things happen. 

“Thankfully, we’re extremely fortunate on this event that the Medical Team are among the best in the world and had him in the helicopter on the way to hospital in less than ten minutes following the alarm. Steve will be back, albeit, maybe in a mechanic only capacity next year!” said Vendetta Team Manager Alan Boyter.

Paul Middleton David McBride and David Mabbs of Vendetta Racing UAE 720

Following on from Blackney’s accident, the rest of the week went smoothly with great final results for the remaining three riders. McBride finished an excellent 9th Overall out of the 32 classified finishers, while Mabbs and Middleton both achieved career best positions of 16th and 20th respectively.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is the traditional season ending event in the UAE, with the temperatures now rising too high to be able to race over the summer, but the Vendetta team will be busy in their sheds and garages on various racing and non-racing projects as they look to grow further.

Alan and the Vendetta Racing UAE riders would like to thank their families and friends for supporting them on the event, as well as on all their two wheeled endeavours!

Words: Stuart Murray

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