CC KTM and Team HRC set for motorcycle showdown in Sealine Rally
Sealine Cross-Country Rally, Qatar – April 18-24, 2015
2015 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, round 3
2015 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, round 2
For immediate release
Saturday, April 18th, 2015
FACTORY KTMS AND HONDA’S TEAM HRC SET TO LOCK
HANDLEBARS IN FASCINATING SEALINE DESERT DUEL
· Team HRC’s Joan Barreda Bort out to defend Sealine motorcycle title
· KTM’s FIM series leader Coma chasing third win in five years in Qatar
DOHA (Qatar): Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM will take on Honda’s Team HRC in what promises to be a fascinating two-wheel battle for supremacy in this week’s Sealine Cross-Country Rally, round two of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
The two stalwarts of cross-country rallying have dominated the sport in recent seasons and lock handlebars again over five stages through the Qatar desert this week, where hot winds, searing temperatures and demanding navigation will add to the challenges imposed by a daunting desert route laid on for Qatar’s premier off-road motor sport event.
KTM has enjoyed the bragging rights so far this season and Spaniard Marc Coma followed up a fifth victory in the Dakar Rally with an eighth success at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge a couple of weeks ago. At the helm of his works Red Bull-backed KTM 450, Coma - a two-time winner in Qatar - is the model of composure, but a number of his rivals are closely matched and he struggled to cope with the pace of Honda’s Joan Barreda Bort for long periods in January’s Dakar Rally.
Barreda Bort arrives in Qatar as the defending Sealine champion and is keen to repeat that success and make up for the disappointment of losing his long-time Dakar lead with salt-induced engine issues and suffering an early disappointment in Abu Dhabi.
While Coma holds the early advantage in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, Team HRC’s Paulo Goncalves also has a point to prove. Last year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner lost a potential podium finish with late technical issues in Abu Dhabi and dropped back to 36th overall, but the Portuguese was a close fourth in Qatar in 2014 and is due another victory.
“Qatar is very different to Abu Dhabi. There are a lot of stony tracks and a lot of navigation,” said Goncalves. “Our objective is to continue to develop the bike, as our chances of taking the world championship title are reduced after the results in Abu Dhabi. That’s why there’s less pressure. We’ll got into it much more relaxed and we can test out the navigation and the bike.”
Dubai-based Briton Sam Sunderland was Coma’s closest challenger in Abu Dhabi and won a stage in the Dakar Rally before retiring, but Coma’s team-mate fell and sustained a wrist injury on day four in Qatar last year and will also need to pay close attention to the meticulous navigation that makes this event unique in the FIM calendar.
Spaniard Jordi Viladoms and the talented Austrian Matthias Walkner complete the Red Bull KTM Factory Team line-up, while the Chilean Jeremias Esquerra replaces Ricky Brabec in Team HRC.
“We are confident that we can achieve in Qatar what we were not able to do in Abu Dhabi and that’s take the win,” said Team HRC’s general manager Wolfgang Fischer. “Joan and Paulo are joined by Jeremias. He has just confirmed a new contract with Team HRC.”
The overall winner in the 26-strong motorcycle category should come from these seven riders, although the ever-improving Emirati Mohammed Al-Balooshi will have other ideas. He finished an impressive sixth in Abu Dhabi and can match and compete with the factory riders on an equal basis on his KTM 450 Rally Replica. Portugal’s Ruben Faria and Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla are also capable of stage wins and podium finishes on their KTMs.
Five quads will do battle for their prestigious title. Qatar’s Mohammed Abu Issa is the defending Sealine champion and faces the defending Dakar and two-time Sealine winner Rafal Sonik of Poland. Russia’s Aleksandr Maksimov, Paraguay’s Nelson Augusto Sanabria and Poland’s Kamil Wisniewski complete the quad line-up.
This year’s Sealine Cross-Country Rally is being organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) with support from GAC and the Salam International Group.
Tomorrow (Sunday), crews complete administration and scrutineering checks at the Losail international circuit, before a series of pre-event press conferences, featuring the leading riders, drivers and major sponsors, will set the scene nicely for the start of the opening competitive stage on Monday morning.
2015 FIM Cross-Country Rally World Championship – current positions:
1. Marc Coma (ESP) KTM 450 Rally 28 pts
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 Rally 23 pts
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL) KTM 450 Rally 19 pts
4. Ruben Faria (POR) KTM 450 Rally 16 pts
5. Ricky Brabec (USA) Honda CRF 450 Rally 14 pts
6. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) KTM 450 Rally 13 pts
7. Juan Carlos Salvatierra (BOL) KTM 450 Rally 12 pts
8. Matthew Hart (AUS) KTM 450 SXF 11 pts
12. Joan Barreda Bort (SPA) Honda CRF 450 Rally 7 pts
30. Paulo Goncalves (PRT) Honda CRF 450 Rally 4 pts
31. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 Rally 4 pts
2015 FIM Quads Cross-Country Rally World Championship – current positions:
1. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT) Honda TRX 28 pts
2. Rafal Sonik (POL) Honda TRX 23 pts
3. Nelson Augusto Sanabria (PAR) Yamaha Raptor 19 pts
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, International Press Officer, 2015 Sealine Cross-Country Rally, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@googlemail.com, www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases). Facebook group: 2011-2012 MERC. Twitter: @LordPerkins