Sulayem says Spanish star’s appearance underlines growing status of national Baja rally series in Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge countdown
Dubai, UAE, 25 February, 2015: Six-times world champion Marc Coma will contest the final round of the Emirates Desert Championship next week to boost his bid for an eighth bikes victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED by Nissan.
Coma, who secured his fifth Dakar Rally triumph in January, will use the climax of the national Baja series on 6 March as part of his preparations for the 25th edition of the Desert Challenge, opening round of this year’s FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship from 27 March-2 April.
Making his debut in the Emirates Desert Championship alongside Dubai-based KTM Factory team-mate Sam Sunderland, the reigning FIM world champion becomes the latest high profile international competitor to enter the Baja series for bikes, cars, buggies and quads this season.
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE and the Emirates Motor Sport Federation, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Marc to the Desert Championship. His appearance emphasises the growing status of series, and we expect many more top competitors to follow in the future.
“Our local competitors will enjoy sharing the stage with one of the most successful riders in the history of international cross country rallying. I have known Marc for many years, and I’m sure he’ll be impressed with the championship that we have built in just two short seasons, especially as it provides great preparation for the Desert Challenge.”
Coma’s Desert Championship entry is supported by KTM Middle East Al Shafar, who will be hoping that he can help them secure a clean sweep of wins in the 2014-15 series.
KTM riders have won all five rounds to date, and KTM General Manager Michael Winter said: “We have been working with the ATCUAE for the last few months to finalise the plan to bring Marc over, and we are really excited to see how he matches up alongside our leading local riders, as the gap may be smaller than people think.”
Coma is a familiar figure in the UAE, having secured the Desert Challenge bikes crown in all but two of his appearances since he made a winning debut in the event in 2006.
While Coma will naturally take much of the spotlight, Emirati rider Mohammed Al Balooshi is aiming to steal the show by holding off the challenges of Kuwaiti Mohammed Jaffar, German Mark Grams and Briton Jake Shipton to clinch the bikes title.
Al Balooshi leads Jaffar by six points but with just 13 points separating the top four and 25 points going to the winner on the day, the championship is set for a thrilling climax.
It is a similar picture in the battle for the cars title, with defending champion Ahmed Al Fahim entering the final round leading by just four points from close friend Ahmad Al Maqoodi, who has won the last four rounds, setting up a fascinating grand finale featuring the two Polaris buggies.
The quads title race also goes down to the wire, with Humaid Al Mashgouni holding a four-point advantage over fellow- Emirati rider Mohammed Al Shamsi after scoring his second victory in the penultimate round to set up another intriguing final round tussle for supremacy.
The Emirates Desert Championship is organised by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE and the Emirates Motor Sport Federation, with TAG Heuer Middle East as the official timekeeper and founding partner.
CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS AFTER 5 ROUNDS
1. Ahmed Al Fahim (UAE) 104
2. Ahmad Al Maqoodi (UAE) 100
3. Graeme Rose (GB) 84
4. Chris Jackson (GB) 80
5. Mohammed Gulzar 78
6. Emil Kneisser (LEB) 63
T1 - Ian Barker; T2 - Emil Kneisser; T3 - Michel Fadel; National - Ahmed Al Fahim.
1. Mohammed Al Balooshi 97
2. Mohammed Jaffar 91
3. Mark Grams 85
4. Jake Shipton 84
5. Mark Ackerman 68
6. Saeed Al Shenqiti 67
1. Humaid Al Mashghouni 92
2. Mohammed Al Shamsi 88
3. Jaco De Lange 71
4. Alex MacFarlane 59
5. Colin Wilken 54
6. Patrick Gersch 40
450cc - Mohammed Al Balooshi; Over 450 - Khalid Al Falasi; Marathon - Chris Dunn; Masters - Tim Trenker; Ladies – Sune Schaffler.