UAE: Dubai based Dakar Champ Sam Sunderland aims for maiden win in Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

UAE: Dubai based Dakar Champ Sam Sunderland aims for maiden win in Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Sam Sunderland on a charge on his factory KTM

Abu Dhabi (UAE) –Tuesday, March 28th 2017: Less than two and a half months ago, Dubai-based Briton Sam Sunderland delivered one of the greatest performances ever seen by an English rider to win the gruelling Dakar Rally at only his third attempt.

The KTM rider had recovered from a serious injury sustained in Morocco – that forced him to miss the event the previous year – and grew in confidence and strength as the season progressed. When the defending champion and Sunderland’s team-mate Toby Price fell in Bolivia and broke his femur, and the Monster Energy Honda Team made a costly servicing error, the dice was thrown in Sunderland’s favour and he held on to take a famous win in Buenos Aires.

Life has changed considerably for the modest rider who spends his time in Dubai between races, but he heads into next week’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED BY NISSAN knowing that victory is within his grasp, as he hopes to kick-start his FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship bid with a win.

The event gets underway with a super special stage at the Al-Forsan International Sports Resort on April 1 and runs through the deserts of the Rub Al-Khali until April 6.

Sunderland has the talented Austrian Matthias Walkner and Frenchman Antoine Meo as his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team-mates over the twisting sand trails and towering dunes that make the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge so unique.

With the exception of 2014 – when the win fell to Honda’s Paolo Gonçalves – KTM has won the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge every year since 2001. The odds are stacked in the team’s favour again with the strength of Sunderland, Walkner and Meo and support from local rider Mohammed A-Balooshi on his Ride to Abu Dhabi Team KTM and Vendetta Racing’s David McBride. Meo returns to desert action for the first time since his nasty fall at the 2016 Dakar.

But Husqvarna would love to stop KTM in their sand tracks. Pablo Quintanilla relied on consistent finishes to win last year’s FIM world title on his Rockstar Energy 450 Rally and the Chilean starts as the top seed as a result of that title success. He is also part of a two-man team alongside the consistent Frenchman and multiple FIM Motocross and Enduro World Champion Pierre Alexandre Renet.

The Monster Energy Honda Team split its resources at the start of the season and American Ricky Brabec clinched victory in Mexico’s Sonora Rally last weekend against a strong field. Management have given the task of pushing for the Abu Dhabi win to Gonçalves and the Argentinean rider Kevin Benavides, as star rider Joan Barreda Bort recovers from injury.

Twenty-eight motorcycles and 17 quads grace the entry list for the ATCUAE’s flagship off-road classic and numerous local riders are in the hunt for success. Abdulla Dakhan and Khalid Al-Falaisi wheel out their respective Yamaha and Honda and Ibrahim Bugla also has a Honda on the entry, while Kuwait’s Mohammed Jaffar wheels out a KTM factory replica 450.

“We have a very strong motorcycle club in the UAE and enduro and cross-country rallying are very popular,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, rally founder and President of the ATCUAE. “Sam Sunderland’s Dakar win was a major boost for the sport as a whole in the region and has attracted a lot of interest around the world. He has been a supporter of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge for several years, but we have a strong field of factory riders this year and the battle will be fascinating on two wheels.”

Meanwhile, as officials at the ATCUAE make their final preparations for the start, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is also benefiting from support from waste disposal firm Tadweer.

Mohsen Al Ameri, Manager of Tadweer in the Western Region, said: “Our participation as a strategic sponsor at Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2017 in the Al-Dhafra Region comes in line with our commitment to provide a sustainable and healthy environment across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Our supervisors, workers, vehicles will be available 24 hours a day to remove the waste from the rally site.”

“Taking part in such events comes in accordance with our vision to develop a leading sustainable and integrated waste management and pest control system by 2030. We strive to deploy the best technological solutions that help in boosting environmental sustainability and customer care excellence and fostering a conscious society that turns waste to an economic resource.”

ADDC officials also received news late last week that the American driver Bryce Menzies would not be able to take part in the event with the official X-raid Team at the helm of a Mini All4 Racing in the car category. According to the German’s team spokesman Tobias Quandt, the Stateside champion is still recovering from injury.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge takes place under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Ruler’s representative in Al-Dafra region, and has invaluable support from Al Dafrah Region Municipality, Abu Dhabi Municipality, the UAE Army, Abu Dhabi Police, National Ambulance Service, Yas Marina Circuit, ADNOC, Abu Dhabi Aviation, Al-Ain Water, Abu Dhabi Waste Management, Rotana and Centro Hotel – Yas Island, the Qasr Al-Sarab Resort and Al-Forsan Circuit.


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9 hrs ago


Throwing it back to the #Moto2 race of the #BritishGP 2012 🇬🇧

Enjoy the last laps battle for the 2nd place between Marquez and Redding! ⚔️

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I was there.....Brilliant racing!!

Very drunk day but remember the race. Loved watching Scott race. All packed and ready for Silverstone Thursday morning.

Fantastic battle 👍

I was there, great finish. Home crowd went wild when Redding got back in front, then deadly silent when Marquez had a look up inside on last bend, then wild again when Redding cut back across. Amazing stuff!


Great performance by Pol & Scott at the end💪🏼..that was a cracker💥..

Very nice

Very nice

All these guys are big talents. Many riders like Pol Espargaro, Alvaro Bautista, Bradley Smith, Antony West & many more are great riders and capable of winning championships ( capable ). People underestimate these guys by their bad results, but material is key in these classes, especially in the MotoGp class. Give them a solid ride and they'll blow your mind

Redding never got the ride he deserved.

Redding and Iannone can beat Marquez they just don't get competitive bikes

2019, #93 is the winner..😋🏁

special suter chassis for marc and mysterious team 😉 after marc step up to motogp, this team directly disappear, nobody know where are they now.

however Mac Marquez with his current performance does not have to be Marquez's best

Just shows how good Redding was but never really got the bike to really take it to them in Motogp.

Very cool video MotoGP. More like this one please!!!

Man, I miss Scott Redding in the padock "let's get it babi"

Muy buena carrera no apta para cardíacos 🤭🤭🤭

Luthi is moto2 governor.. 🤣🤣🤣

Forget just how good Redding could have been with a decent bike

now whrs redding? gone?

Nice to see maq battle for other place than 1st

Kaj mu je pa SCOTT REDDING naredil,šale in kape.😀

Bring back Redding

duel one on one in the final lap marquez lose .....

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12 hrs ago


The dramatic moment which cost Marc Márquez a shot at victory at Silverstone two years ago! 😱

The world champion's misfortune opened the door for Andrea Dovizioso to snatch the win! 💨

#BritishGP 🇬🇧
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Good Day all.

Encore! Encore! Do it again!

Unlikely to be repeated! Hope Dovi brings his A game though. 👍🏼👍🏼

Gave the rest a chance

So what's new?? Sometimes these kind of technical failures happens in Motorsport... Very rare that engine blow sky high to premier class bike.

I love coming here and waiting for all the Yellow gob smokers.

I thought "the legend" was gonna win that day.. 😅

Was at this race, and that bike blowing up was almost as good as a Rossi win 😀

RAre footage for sure

Honda's bike today is reliable so this might not happen again.

Ah, I could watch that Honda blow up all day every day...

Alex Groenewold finger cross 😅👍.. voor komend weekend

#MM93 Come Back STRONGER! 💪💪💪😎👍👍👍

Fast forward >>>> he is the world champion!!



And finaly , the boss MM93 won the title one more time

Saya Mie Halim moh top fan sama sama

Nothing can stop him not even a broken bike ! Simply the king of MotoGP !

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15 hrs ago


Cue the celebrations, Bob! 🍾👏 ... See Less

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( •_•) ( >💎 oh! Preciosa insignia! /︶\

Must be an awesome feeling..I certainly Would love to work with f1 even if it was to clean a window.

Nice. Long time lots of great words over the years

Awesome to get behind the scenes!

I love the voice of that guy

Cheers to the great Bob!!!

Amazing. I remember this voice. Thanks.

More than 660 wow ! I mean that’s amazingly nice, being with the next generation sharing your experience & catching something new from them it’s a nice way. Good going Bob keep it up & don’t forget to change the baton when you still can... 👍

Bobs Brilliant we love Bob in our house 👍🏻

Love these little insights into the F1 community 👍

It’s nice to now be able to put a name/face to the voice. Keep up the good work Bob. 🎤 🔈

Amazing with the “carmen opera” music

Awesome to put the face to the voice.

Hey I’m a top fan again, but it is really cool to put a face to the voice. I never really thought about it till I saw this

Big respect for Bob cheers 🍾🍾

I now have proof of what he does when he goes away. He is my legend

I should celebrate with champagne too after being promoted to top fan for god knows what reason 😂

Finally we get to see the man! 🙌🏻

I always wondered who did the podium announcements and if it was done locally or in England. 👍

Thanks for the Top Fan position!

Never seen the man behind the legendary announcements !

Wait, what if he is the meow guy! 😆

Always wondered who did the podium announcements and now we can put a face to the voice

660 races and counting .....give Bob some champaaaaaaaagne!! 🍾🍾

The unsung hero of F1 😁😂🍾

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