UAE: Emirates Desert Champions crowned in championship finale
Dubai, UAE, 09 March, 2015: After a dramatic climax to the Emirates Desert Championship, new cars, bikes and quads champions Ahmad Al Maqoodi, Jake Shipton and Humaid Al Mashghouni can already anticipate a tough title defence next season as the UAE’s national Baja rally series continues to develop.
Fourth place in the sixth and final round of the series last Friday was enough to see Al Maqoodi snatch the cars title from his friend and fellow Polaris buggy driver Al Fahim, the winner on the day in the spectacular short course event in the Margham desert.
While Dubai-based KTM factory rider Sam Sunderland powered his way to victory at the weekend, second place for Shipton saw the British rider claim the overall bikes title by a single point from Emirati Mohammed Al Balooshi, who finished fourth on the day.
There was another tense finish in the quads category, where Alex MacFarlane produced a last round victory but Al Mashghouni finished third, just behind Mohammed Al Shamsi, to beat his fellow-Emirati rider to the title by two points.
The championship has provided superb preparation for those now looking forward to performing on a big world stage in the 25th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge from 28 March to 2 April.
“It was a great finish to our second season, and already we’re looking forward to making it bigger and better next year,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE and the Emirates Motorsport Federation, the championship organisers.
“We’ve maintained over 100 entries throughout the championship and I’m very happy with the quality as well as the quantity. The guys who won this time had to fight all the way, and they know that’s it’s going to be even tougher next time.
“We’re very grateful for the support we have received from the government, the private sector, particularly TAG Heuer as our official timekeeper and founding partner, as well as the media, and especially the competitors who have come out in force for each round.
“The series has also become an excellent proving ground for the Desert Challenge, and we now look forward to seeing our local drivers and riders taking on the best in the world when we stage the event for the 25th time later this month.”
The second season produced an average entry of 106 drivers and riders over the six rounds, and the championship has become a natural feeder series for the Desert Challenge, part of the FIA World for Cross Country Rallies for cars and the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes and quads.
The appeal of the Desert Championship, and the quality of the series, was highlighted by the appearance at the weekend of six-times FIM world champion Marc Coma, the five-times Dakar Rally winner, who finished fourth on the day.
Coma will be aiming much higher in the Desert Challenge, which he has already won seven times. “I really enjoyed taking part in this championship in the Emirates,” said Coma. “I have a lot of experience in the desert, but on a rally bike, and here I used a moto cross bike. I was just learning and enjoying it because it’s a great training ground for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and I’m excited about that.”
Emirates Desert Championship, Round 6 results:
1. Ahmed Al Fahim, Polaris
2. Mohammed Gulzar, Polaris
3. Chris Jackson, Can AM
4. Ahmad Al Maqoodi, Polaris
5. Mark Powell, Predator
6. Graeme Rose, Polaris
1. Sam Sunderland, KTM
2. Jake Shipton, KTM
3. Ross Runnalls, Kawasaki
4. Mohammed Al Balooshi, KTM
5. Mohammed Jaffar, KTM
6. Mark Grams, Honda
1. Alex MacFarlane, KTM
2. Mohammed Al Shamsi, Kawasaki
3. Humaid Al Mashghouni, Honda
4. Abdul Majeed Al Khulaifi, Kawasaki
5. Jaco De Lange, Yamaha
6. Patrick Gersch, Yamaha
Final 2014-15 championship standings
1. Ahmad Al Maqoodi (UAE) 118
2. Ahmed Al Fahim (UAE) 114
3. Mohammed Gulzar 100
4. Chris Jackson (GB) 86
5. Graeme Rose (GB) 84
6. Emil Kneisser (LEB) 77
1. Jake Shipton 106
2. Mohammed Al Balooshi 105
3. Mohammed Jaffar 98
4. Mark Grams 85
5. Sean Gaugain 69
6. Mark Ackerman 68
1. Humaid Al Mashghouni 112
2. Mohammed Al Shamsi 110
3. Jaco De Lange 87
4. Alex MacFarlane 84
5. Colin Wilken 65
6. Patrick Gersch 55