Team HRC’s Paulo Goncalves took the overall win in the 2014 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Round 1 of this year’s FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship. Red Bull KTM’s Marc Coma finished in second followed by Goncalves’ teammate, Joan Barreda, in third.
“So this Abu Dhabi rally is finished, and I’m really happy for me, and all the team,” said Goncalves. “We have fought a lot during these five days, but we have shown that we have a strong team, a really competitive bike, some really fast riders, and we managed to pick up a victory. So we should be pleased and confident about our future. Our bike is working really well in these hard conditions here in the Abu Dhabi desert, so we need to be happy. Congratulations to everybody.”
In the early stages Coma and his teammate, Sam Sunderland, led the way though Goncalves was never more than five minutes adrift of the leader. Sunderland, who the previous year rode for Team HRC, maintained the overall lead until Stage 4 when a bike issue forced him to retire from competition. All the while Goncalves was still well within reach of the overall lead, entering the final leg in second-place, one and a half minutes behind Coma.
In Stage 5 the Honda ace caught Coma at the second checkpoint and from there pushed hard to make up the time he needed to move into the number one spot overall. At the checkers Goncalves had bested Coma by a scant 20 seconds.
“We fought until the last kilometer but in this race we know the starting order has a big influence,” said Coma. “We also had a race strategy with Sam (Sunderland) that we could not carry out after he went out. We missed the win by just 20 seconds, which was a shame because it would have been great to win here for the eighth time. I felt very comfortable and after winning the Dakar, I had the same motivation. I will try to get the win in Qatar that has eluded us here by such a small margin.”
Coma’s teammate, Jordi Villadoms, finished in fourth followed by fellow KTM pilot Miran Stanovnik in fifth.
The next round, the Sealine Cross-Country Rally, is set to start April 20, 2014 in Qatar.
Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Overall Results 2014
1. Paulo Goncalves, PRT (Honda) 16:57'47
2. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) +00'20
3. Joan Barreda, ESP (Honda) +08'44
4. Jordi Viladoms, ESP (KTM) +40'49
5. Miran Stanovnik, SLO (KTM) +01:39'24
6. Mohammed Albalooshi, UAE (KTM) +02:00'06
7. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Honda) +02:02'29
8. Oliver Lloyd, GBR (Speedbrain) +03:02'29
9. Jakub Piatek, Pol (KTM) +03:03'01
10. Santosh CS, IND (KTM) +03:11'15