Three time Dakar Rally winner Marc Coma took fifth victory in the 2011 Abu Dhabi Desert Challange.
Marc Coma whose racing year started in January with his third win of the Dakar Rally
, on Thursday won the 2011 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the opening round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship.
Coma, a KTM
factory rider for Spain's MRW Team led for most of the rally but the final day was a nail biter as he had only a small 3-minute margin over second placed Helder Rodrigues of Portugal. KTM's Spanish rider triumphed also in the last stage and won by around five minutes after a total time of 18 hours 28 minutes. It was his fifth victory in this event. The final podium place also went to KTM with Poland's Jakub Przygonsk on the lower step. KTM factory rider Ruben Faria of Portugal finished in sixth place.
"It feels really special to take my fifth win here. We know the desert is really special. The conditions are always hard, with big dunes and soft sand, but it really is fantastic," he said.
While Coma soaked up the major glory, a young member of the KTM UAE team also grabbed attention with two stage wins. Dubai-based Britain Sam Sunderland finally finished 37th overall, largely because he picked up a sizeable time penalty on day three. The 21 year old ended in style finishing seventh on the final day. "Sam won two stages and it was a pity that he had some mechanical problems," said Coma. "But he's young and I wish all the best for him. He just needs to take it easy - his time will come." Following the Super Special that decides the starting order of the main event and is often raced with tactics in mind, the remaining four stage wins were split between coma and Sunderland.
KTM riders also took top three in the Open Production class, won by Poland's Marek Dabrowski with UAE-resident Tim Trenker in second and Romania's Emanuel Gyenes in third. In the final shakeout there were eight KTM riders in the top 12 overall finishers.
The rally, planned by the organizers to give as much opportunity as possible to spectators to take in the excitement, started and ended at the Marina Mall near the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club.
2011 Abu Dhabi Desert Challange overall results:
Marc Coma, KTM, 18 hours 28 minutes
Helder Rodrigues, Yamaha, at +5'21
Jakub Przygonski, KTM at +12'43
Frans Verhoeven, Husqvarna, at +17'01
Pal Anders Norway, KTM at +18'47.40
Ruben Faria, KTM at +21'54
David Fretagne, Husqvarna, +27'50
Jacek Czachor, KTM, +1"09'08
Marek Dabrowski, KTM, +1"13'16 (winner of Open Production Class)
Paolo Ceci, Beta, +1"13'16
Tim Trenker, KTM +1"37'42 (second in Open Production)
Emanuel Gyenes, KTM +1"42'37 (third in Open production)