Emirates Desert Championship, Rd 1. A fresh start

Rally victory for David Mabbs and Sean Gaugain on round 1 of the 2013/2014 Emirates Desert Championship in Dubai, UAE.

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The newly established Emirates Desert Championship got underway this past weekend in Dubai, a new initiative to further develop grass roots motorsport in the region and safeguard the interests of rallying at a national level. A 14-strong entry list in the Auto category and a further 60 entrants confirmed for Moto showed the new series was off to a good start.

The 15km Al Yalayasi stage neverthlees took a merciless toll, with nine of the Auto competitors failing to make the finish under the brutal heat and through tough terrain (designed ‘Baja-style’, according to the event organisers). Despite strong opposition from a three-strong Nissan Patrol attack, David Mabbs took first blood with victory in his 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser, some 5m 35s ahead of nearest competitor Ahmad Al Maqoodi in hsi 2012 Polaris RZR XP and a further seven minutes ahead of Ian Barker in his 2008 Patrol.

Mabbs’ best lap of 18m 51.370s though was still someway off Ahmed Al Fahim’s best effort of 14m 52.187s in the 2014 Polaris RZR, an average speed of 60.53kph. Though on the pace, difficulties scuppered Al Fahim’s charge and he would eventually be classified sixth.

Sean Gaugain found the competition much tougher in the Moto category, eventually taking victory on the 2014 Kawasaki 450 XKF by a much slimmer 2m 27s margin from Mark Grams on the 2007 Honda CR250R. Jimmy Jonsson would complete the Moto podium – albeit eight minutes behind Gaugain – on the 2014 KTM 350 SXT. Gaugain’s best lap of 13m 43.869s (an average lap speed of 65.54kph)was the only effort to break the 14m barrier.

Three more events on the 2013/2014 Emirates Desert Championship are due to take place in November, January and February though neither dates nor venues have yet to be confirmed.

– FULL GALLERY OF SHOTS AVAILABLE HERE – CLICK – Shots courtesy of David Benson

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