KTM Factory riders Sam Sunderland and Marc Coma continue to occupy the first two overall places as the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the first round of the FIM World Cross Countries Rallies Championship reaches the half way mark.
Britain’s Sunderland, the factory team’s latest recruit has a narrow overall lead over veteran and four-times Dakar winner Coma of Spain but they are being hotly pursued by two other top riders, Paolo Goncalves and Joan Barreda. Sunderland and Coma finished 3-4 in Tuesday’s Leg Three as both the temperatures and the competition began to heat up.
KTM factory rider Jordi Viladoms of Spain finished sixth in Tuesday’s leg to win back some time lost in the first two days. He is currently in fifth overall.
Coma said it had been another long hot day with very tough desert riding. “I opened the track today and when you are out in front and concentrating on the navigation, you tend to lose some time. But I am happy that we are still fighting for the victory and with two days to go it is important to stay very focused and make no mistakes.”
"Today was a little like we expected because it was not open desert and the dunes were quite narrow. This means it was difficult to keep a high pace. The level is high and our rivals are not making it easy. So it’s important to continue the fight. We have a good speed and the bike is running smoothly. "
Dubai–based Sunderland said he is enjoying being in the KTM Factory Team and riding the 2014 KTM 450 Rally machine. “I started out behind Marc today and I managed to catch him at about the 70 km mark. We rode together for about 30-40 km after refueling, then the others caught us and we rode the rest of the way in a group. Today there were not so many dunes but we did have a lot of hard piste to ride.” Sunderland will be aiming to improve on his third place finish last season and is well placed to achieve it.
KTM support rider Jakub “Kuba” Przygonski is out of the rally after crashing at the 190 km mark in Monday’s second leg just one day after he made a valiant attempt to save the life of a crash victim. Kuba’s Orlen Team later reported he had dislocated his elbow and injured his back and has returned to Poland for treatment. The team confirmed that he did not require surgery for his injured back.
Wednesday is the penultimate stage and riders face 380 kilometers, 240 of which are under the clock. Leg Four also features a mass start, another challenge for the riders in contention for the podium.