ABU DHABI: Nani Roma clinched his first victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge on Thursday to round off a dominant display in the cars category, while Marc Coma edged his way to a record seventh win in the bikes class to complete a unique double triumph for Spain, according to a release.
Despite a third stage win in successive days by defending champion Jean Louis Schlesser on the 296km Abu Dhabi Aviation Stage 5, Roma and French co-driver Michel Perin, in a Mini, won by 20 mins 58 secs from the familiar blue buggy of the veteran French driver, a six-time winner of the event.
Coma’s bikes’ triumph came after Sam Sunderland collected a 10-minute penalty overnight for a basic technical infringement, denying the Dubai-based British rider a brilliant start-to-finish victory as a reward for outshining the reigning world champion and a host of other stars of cross country rallying. Coma won by just 32 seconds from Portugal’s Paulo Goncalves.
Also celebrating victory at the finish was Qatar’s Mohammed Abu-Issa who came through a series of major scares on the Abu Dhabi Aviation Stage to capture the quads title at the first attempt, winning by just over three minutes from the UAE’s defending champion Obaid Al Kitbe.
Celebrating at the finish, a delighted Roma said: “It’s always nice to win, and the Desert Challenge is really difficult so it’s a good feeling, but I’m also happy for the whole team. In this sport you need a lot of people around you, so this victory was for everyone involved in the team.
“The first three days were really tough because I had to open the stage, so I had to go fast but not make mistakes. After that I could relax a little and sit on my lead. A lot of credit must go to Michel in the co-driver seat for getting us around.”
Bitterly disappointed to have lost his chance of victory, Sunderland finished third and remained philosophical at the end.
“It was a really good week for me but I made a big mistake yesterday,” he said.
Coma, who has now won the Desert Challenge bikes title five years in a row, said: “I’m very happy to win but feel sorry for Sam because it was clear he was the fastest rider over the five days and deserved his victory. But those are the rules and we have to abide by them.”