New Champions Crowned as EDC Season comes to a Close

The fifth and final round of the 2016-17 Emirates Desert Championship season took place in stormy conditions on Friday morning, but the wind and rain couldn’t stop the various competitors still fighting to secure their titles.

In the motorcycle category, after coming second in the previous two seasons, Emirati Mohammed Al Balooshi finally put those demons to rest by taking the win on the day and confirming himself as the new champion.

“After coming second in the last few seasons, and starting this year still recovering from injuries, I can’t describe how important this win is to me! It will definitely take a few days to settle in”, said Al Balooshi.

“The conditions today were really hard but I knew I had to fight through it and push myself if I wanted the title, and I finally found that good luck I’d been looking for in the past. I’d like to thank the ATCUAE and EMSF for putting on such a great event, not just today, but all season”, he concluded.

Balooshi’s closest challenger, last season’s champion Ross Runnall’s could only manage fourth overall on the day, leaving him a close second place in the championship. Runnall’s will be able to commiserate himself with the fact that he has finished season as first in the 450cc Class, with Al Balooshi first in the separate Veteran’s Class. Additionally, Al Balooshi’s good fortunes continue with the fact that his own team, Balooshi Racing, featuring himself, Sultan Al Balooshi, Mohammed Jaffar and Shannon O’Connor, have finished the season as winners in the team competition for the first time, ahead of the Sandy Helmets in second and SRG Portable Shade Husqvarna in third.

Elsewhere, despite an uncharacteristic mechanical issue that left him fourth on the day, Ahmed Al Maqoodi had already done enough to reclaim his Buggy title that he previously won in 2014-15. His Polaris Racing Team UAE teammate Omar Sawan finished round five in first place, with the team holding onto the best Auto/Buggy Team award that they also won last year. Ryan Trutch was second on the day with Patrick McMurren in third place.

The quad category celebrates its fourth different Emirati champion in four seasons, with Obaid Al Kitbe the latest rider to add his name to the list, but circumstances on the day forced him to work hard to secure the title. Finishing fourth on the event, which was won by Khalifa Al Rasse, Al Kitbe had to carry out emergency repairs in the middle of a desert sandstorm in order to continue the race and score the much needed points. He finished the season only one point ahead of Kuwaiti rider Fahad Al Musallam.

Finally, in the Car category, Emirati driver Khalid Al Jafla was one of the few competitors to retain a title from last season, doing so in style by comfortably winning the final race of the year. Briton Mark Powell was third on the day, with compatriot Ian Barker in third place.

“I’m delighted for all the winners, and really impressed that they had the courage to still push themselves today in some horrendous conditions! Between today and the previous event two weeks ago, we don’t seem to have had much luck weather wise, but it all adds to the challenge”, said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, ATCUAE President and EMSF Chairman.

It’s been a great season, and I would like to thank everyone who has supported the championship, especially all the officials and marshals. However, the work is never over and we are now full steam ahead organizing the Dubai International Baja, our new FIA and FIM World Cup event for Dubai that is taking place in just over three weeks’ time, and we hope everyone will come out to support it”, he concluded.

The Emirates Desert Championship is the UAE’s national baja rally championship for Cars, Buggies, Motorcycles and Quads, and is organized over five events by the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) and the Emirates Motor Sport Federation (EMSF).

The Dubai International Baja takes place from the 9th to the 11th March 2017, with the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge held from the 30th March to 6th April 2017.

Al Jafla, Al Maqoodi, Runnalls and Al Musallam Celebrate Victory at Challenging Penultimate Emirates Desert Championship Event

Khalid Al Jafla, Ahmed Al Maqoodi, Ross Runnalls and Fahad Al Musallam won their respective Auto, Buggy, Motorcycle and Quad races in tough conditions at Round 4 of the Emirates Desert Championship in the Margham region of Dubai on Friday morning.

Competitors had to battle against the elements as well as each other as rare storms hit the UAE on Thursday and Friday. Heavy overnight rain washed away all desert tracks making navigation more difficult, as well as leaving a heavy layer of damp sand throughout the desert, which is especially difficult for the motorcycles to stay upright in. Thankfully, despite low temperatures and overcast skies, the wind and rain held off long enough early on Friday morning for the organisers to start the race, and all competitors were keen to score some much needed championship points, with only one more round of the championship to go.

In the Auto category, Emirati Khalid Al Jafla was a dominant winner in his Armada Trophy Trucks, setting consistently fast times, and emerging as a clear winner, with Briton Mark Powell second and Qatari Sh. Hamad Al Thank third in a pair of Nissan Patrols.

“The conditions suited my vehicle which is significantly lighter than the Nissans, and I was able to glide along on the top of the wet sand. It was great fun to be honest!” said Al Jafla.

“While the win is always welcomed, it was actually more important for me to get used to this new vehicle and its capabilities ahead of the Dubai International Baja in March, and I hope to be able to fight for the win alongside the world’s top teams”, Al Jafla concluded.

In the Buggy category, Ahmed Al Maqoodi of the Polaris UAE Racing Team recorded his third win in succession, and looks to have gained control in the championship as he seeks to regain the title he previously won in 2014-15. Al Maqoodi’s teammate Omar Sawan was second on the day, with Briton Tom Bell in third place. Ryan Trutch, who had been leading the championship going into the event was forced to retire with mechanical problems.

Reigning motorcycle champion Ross Runnalls finally won his first event of the season with a comfortable margin from fellow South African Aaron Mare in second place. Mohammed Al Balooshi finished in third place, leaving himself and Runnalls effectively in a two way fight for the title going into the final round. While Al Balooshi, who was runner up to Runnalls last season, goes into the final round holding advantage, due to him having finished all four events compared to Runnall’s three, he will need to finish ahead of Runnalls at round five to ensure that he takes the championship.

Elsewhere among the motorcycles, Al Balooshi was first in the Veteran’s Class, Shannon O’Connor won the Master’s Class, Benjamin Melot was best of the Over 450cc Class, and Shelby Ingrilli was top of the Marathon Class riders. Elisha Dessurne was first in the Ladies Cup.

Finally, in the quads, Kuwaiti Fahad Al Musallam won a tight fought battle over two time Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner Obaid Al Kitbe, with the Al Musallam beating his Emirati rival by a margin of just eight tenths of a second after two hours and 100kms of racing. Khalifa Al Rasse finished the podium off with third place. Al Kitbe will be hoping for a strong result in round five as he aims to become the fourth different Emirati to win the quad title in four seasons.

“Today was a real challenge for the competitors and we were lucky that the conditions permitted us to run the race, although they deteriorated a bit as we got to the end. A lot of the competitors are using this championship as training for the Dubai International Baja and Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge coming in March and April, so I am glad that we still gave them the opportunity to race today”, said ATCUAE President and EMSF Chairman Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

“I would like to thank all those that came out today to the event, not just those that competed, but more importantly the marshals, sweep team, media, service crew and spectators who braved the worst of the conditions to support UAE motorsport”, concluded Ben Sulayem.

The Emirates Desert Championship is the UAE’s national baja rally championship for cars, buggies, motorcycles and quads and is organized by the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) and the Emirates Motor Sport Federation (EMSF). The fifth and final round of the championship will be held on Friday 17th February 2017, and will be followed by the Dubai International Baja on the 9th to 11th March and the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge from the 30th March to 6th April 2017.

Al Balooshi Aims to Seize Control at Emirates Desert Championship

Round 4 of the Emirates Desert Championship is taking place on Friday 3rd February 2017, and Mohammed Al Balooshi is determined to cement his place at the top of the overall motorcycle classification.

With three of the five rounds of the season already completed, Al Balooshi currently leads the championship by at least 12 points from his nearest challengers, and after finishing as Runner Up in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, he is more determined than ever to finish the season as champion.

“After the disappointment of coming second in the last two seasons, it would mean a huge amount to me to win this championship and also give me a real confidence boost going into the Dubai International Baja and Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge”, said Al Balooshi.

While Al Balooshi has suffered his share of bad luck over the seasons to deprive him of the title, it may be the misfortune of one of his main rivals that elevates him to the role of title favorite. Josh Brodalka, winner of the previous two rounds and Al Balooshi’s closest competition for the championship was injured in a crash while testing last weekend, and his injury is serious enough to keep him out for the rest of the season.

“It’s a huge shame to lose Josh at this stage of the season, as the racing recently has been hugely competitive and exciting”, said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, ATCUAE President and EMSF Chairman.

“However, Mohammed is a hugely experienced rider and he knows that he will still have to work hard to secure the title, with the likes of Mark Grams, Sam Smith, Mohammed Jaffar and last season’s champion Ross Runnalls all ready to pounce on any mistake. For us as the organisers, we are not too concerned with who the champion is at the end of the day so long as everyone has fun and makes it home safely”, Ben Sulayem concluded.

Elsewhere, the championship fight is also heating up in the race for the Buggy title, with an excellent entry of twelve entries in that class for this event. Ryan Trutch currently leads the championship on 58 points, following two third places and a fourth in the opening three rounds, but Emirati Ahmed Al Maqoodi, the 2014-15 Champion, is currently in second with 50 points and is favourite for the title. Championship regulations state that a competitors best four scoring results from the five rounds are counted towards the final point total, giving Al Maqoodi the advantage going into the final two rounds.

The Emirates Desert Championship is the UAE’s national baja rally championship for cars, buggies, motorcycles and quads, and is organized by the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) and the Emirates Motor Sport Federation (EMSF).

The 2016-17 season is held over five rounds, with round four taking place on Friday 3rd February 2017 in the Margham region of Dubai, with the race of 84 competitors across all classes starting at 08:30 and finishing at 10:30. The fifth and final round of the championship will take place two weeks late on Friday 17th February 2017 at a yet to be disclosed location.