KTM’s 3 times Dakar winner Marc Coma of Spain rode his KTM 450 Rally bike to first place in the opening desert stage of the inaugural Sealine Rally in Qatar on Wednesday and takes a narrow overall lead.
The Spanish factory rider finished just eight seconds ahead of Spanish compatriot Joan Barreda and has a six second advantage going into stage two tomorrow. Four more KTM riders soaked up places 4-7 in Wednesday’s stage, led by Coma’s KTM factory teammate Ruben Faria of Portugal in fourth place. He trailed the leader by just 5 minutes 48 and was followed by Spain’s Jordi Villadoms at fifth, Jakub ‘Kuba’ Przygoński of Poland in sixth and Italy’s Alessandro Botturi in seventh making it a good start to the rally for riders of the KTM 450 rally bike.
The rally, the second of the World Cross Country Rally World Championships and new to the calendar in 2012 is entirely new territory making it a real level playing field for all riders. It was launched with a ceremonial start on Monday followed by a short and very fast ‘super special’ on Tuesday of just 4.2 km where riders averaged speeds of around 90 kmh. Coma finished third behind what will probably be his two toughest rivals, Barreda and Helder Rodrigues of Portugal who is the current World Champion.
Then on Wednesday riders got down to some serious fast racing as they tackled the first 330.51 km loop stage through the most southern part of Qatar. They had to traverse dry lakes, gravel tracks, sandy terrain and small dunes before passing close to the sea and confronting a series of difficult dunes to finish the day’s ride.
The Sealine Rally is proving to be quite different terrain that that of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in round one just two weeks ago. Competition starts early to avoid the extreme heat of the desert but the trails are fast and stony. Wind, fog and dust also throw in some more contingencies that will make it extremely competitive. Riders will have to be constantly on their guard and as Coma predicted at the beginning of the rally, there will be absolutely no margin for error and no possibility of recovering lost time in such a short, compact race.