Red Bull KTM factory rider Marc Coma of Spain sealed an early victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge on Thursday after organizers cancelled the final scheduled stage. A sandstorm had made support for the riders impossible. Coma’s win also lays the foundation stone for his bid to secure his seventh world championship title.

Brabec passed his "test" with flying colors.
Brabec passed his “test” with flying colors.

The real news was the performance put in by 23-year-old American Ricky Brabec. The rookie had got his first taste of navigation and riding amid the dunes and even managed one of the honorary final placings, posting an overall fifth as well as triumphing in the junior category.

Said Brabec: “Here we are at the last day of the rally. Unfortunately the storm was really crazy last night and this morning so they had to cancel the last stage and we had to take the highway back. Overall the whole rally was a great experience and I learned a lot. I hope to come back and race a lot more and get better and better. I can’t thank the Team HRC guys enough for letting me come out and ride their Honda CRF450 RALLY. So hopefully Joan and Paulo will be able to get on top and not have any issues.”

Oddly, Brabec was the top finisher on the HRC team, which consisted of Paulo Goncalves, Joan Barreda and him. The more experienced riders both suffered electrical trouble. Brabec stopped for Barreda one day to help, which was his main mission as team rookie. “The bike has been performing very well,” said team manager Martino Bianchi. “We’ve just got to work on the set-up, do a bit of fine-tuning and find out a slight problem that we’ve had out here in the high temperatures. Another positive aspect is that we’ve been able to scout for the young 23 year-old Ricky Brabec who won the Junior Class. He has shown here at the rally that he has a promising future. We will try and test him again later this year and see how his preparation is going.”

Marc Coma won with 11 minutes to spare.
Marc Coma won with 11 minutes to spare.

Coma wrapped up the win thanks to his 11 minutes 55 seconds lead at the end of Wednesday’s Stage Four. It was his eighth win at this event, making him the KTM rider with the most Desert Challenge victories. KTM riders have won the event every year except three since motorcycles were introduced into the program in 1995.

Marc Coma: “The truth is that the conditions were bad. I am happy and proud to have achieved this eighth victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. It was very important to continue in this way, especially after the win in the Dakar. We have picked up a lot of points for the championship and now it’s time to rest and think about the next round in Qatar.”

The rally, the opening round of the 2015 FIM Cross Countries Rally World Championship, saw the top four places go to KTM riders. Coma’s teammate Sam Sunderland, the British rider who is based in the UAE was second, KTM support rider Pablo Quintanilla of Chile completed the podium and KTM factory rider Rubin Faria of Portugal was fourth. Eight of the top ten were on KTM with Mohammed Al Balooshi (KTM UAE) sixth, Juan Salvatierra (BOL) seventh, Australian Matt Hart eighth and British rider David McBride tenth. KTM factory riders compete on the KTM 450 RALLY.

Riders had to contend with extreme temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius, conditions Coma described on Wednesday as ‘like an oven”, a day that other KTM riders Sunderland, Quintanilla, Al Balooshi and Walkner all agreed was very tough riding in the dunes. Coma after the fourth stage: “I rode in a group of five and in the earlier part across the open desert we managed to get a good rhythm going.  I then took it easy because of the extreme driving conditions and the heat.”

Round Two of the 2015 FIM World Cross Country Rallies Championship Calendar: Sealine Rally Qatar 19-24.4.2015.

More at
Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
Round One of FIM Cross Countries Rally World Championship

Please Note: Organizers cancelled the final stage of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge when a sand storm made it impossible to provide the necessary support. Results as at the end of Stage Four therefore stand as final results


Final Overall Standings (after Stage Four – Stage Five cancelled due to sand storm)

1, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM, 14 hours 49.05
2, Sam Sunderland, GBR, KTM at 11.55
3, Pablo Quintanilla, CHI, KTM at 20.16
4, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM at 28.01
5, Ricky Brabec, USA, Honda at 34.17
6, Moh. Al Balooshi, UAE, KTM at 44.48
7, Juan Salvatierra, BOL, KTM at 1:03.06
8, Matt Hart AUS, KTM at 1:13.15
9, J. Cornejo CHI, Suzuki at 1:13.31
10, David McBride, GBR, KTM 1:17.35

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