Team HRC’s Paulo Gonçalves won the final stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and in the process won the overall, beating Red Bull KTM’s Marc Coma by just 20 seconds after five stages of the opening round of the Rally Raid World Championship.
Gonçalves was near perfect in the final stage, catching Coma and his Goncalves’ teammate Joan Barreda at the second checkpoint and the taking control of the race. At the finish he’d opened up a big enough gap to take the overall victory.
Barreda finished the stage in third, consolidating his third place in the overall standings behind his teammate and Coma.
For both defending World Champion Gonçalves and Honda this was the first win in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
“So this Abu Dhabi rally is finished, and I’m really happy for me, and all the team,” Goncalves said. “We have fought a lot during these five days, but we have shown that we have a strong team, a really competitive bike, some really fast riders, and we managed to pick up a victory. So we should be pleased and confident about our future. Our bike is working really well in these hard conditions here in the Abu Dhabi desert, so we need to be happy. Congratulations to everybody.”
Coma was disappointed with narrowly missing out on victory, the Spaniard suffering with the loss of his teammate Sam Sunderland, the Brit getting knocked out of the race in yesterday’s stage by a mechanical problem.
“We fought until the last kilometer but in this race we know the starting order has a big influence,” Coma said. “We also had a race strategy with Sam [Sunderland] that we could not carry out after he went out. We missed the win by just 20 seconds, which was a shame because it would have been great to win here for the eighth time. I felt very comfortable and after winning the Dakar, I had the same motivation. I will try to get the win in Qatar [Sealine Rally April 20-25] that has eluded us here by such a small margin.”