April 12, 2013 - The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge drew to a close on Thursday April 12th after six days of racing, concluding the first round of the FIM Cross Country Rally world championship.
Sam Sunderland (UK, 24 years old) took a spectacular third final place in the rally on his Honda CRF450 Rally, proving himself to be both quick and highly-skilled at navigation. Sunderland won two of the rally’s five stages, and remained on top of the leader board throughout most of the competition. Sam won his third stage victory in the penultimate stage and could have increased his lead over Marc Coma, his most immediate rival in the overall standings, were it not for a ten minute penalty that forced him back into third place.
Sunderland picked up the penalty after failing to pass through the limit flags at the end of the special test, on his return to the bivouac on the transfer section.Nevertheless, it turned out to be a positive rally for TEAM HRC and for the Honda CRF 450 Rally which showed its highly competitive edge. The team thus proved themselves to be one of the main protagonists in the first round of the Cross Country Rally.
On the other hand, TEAM HRC’s other rider, Portuguese Helder Rodrigues, was less fortunate, having fallen in the second stage of the race. This resulted in a damaged bike and a long delay in getting to the end of the special. Helder finished the rally in twenty-ninth position, making the podium twice, once in the special and then in the final stage.
Sam Sunderland commented after the race: “It was a shame about the ten minute penalty imposed in yesterday’s stage. If it hadn’t been for those ten minutes I’d have won this race. I did a mistake that I will never do again! Anyway I’m happy with my performance though. I’d trained really hard for this race and I showed that I’m fast and able to navigate. My Honda CRF 450 Rally ran like a dream and we are making great progress with every race. ”
1. Coma (KTM)
2. Goncalves (Speedbrain ) + 32”
3. Sunderland (Honda) + 8’45”