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.