Red Bull KTM’s Marc Coma began the 2015 FIM Cross Country Rallies Championship in the most optimal position as he seeks a seventh title – with a win.

The 38-year-old Spaniard, who earned his fifth Dakar Rally title in January, was the dominate rider during round 1 – the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Due to a sand storm on Thursday, the rally was shortened from five to four stages.

Coma opened the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with the stage-one win, and would take second in all the remaining stages. The KTM 450 Rally pilot retained the overall lead from day one, and eventually finished 11:55 minutes ahead of Red Bull KTM Factory teammate Sam Sunderland and 20:16 minutes ahead of KTM Warsaw Rally Team’s Pablo Quintanill.

This was Coma’s eighth win in Abu Dhabi, and all were accomplished on KTM machinery. The Austrian-based manufacturer also has won every Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge except for three since motorcycles joined the race in 1995.

Speaking after the race, Coma said “Today they has to suspend the stage because of the weather. This mean’t that we returned to Abu Dhabi on the road. The truth is that the conditions were bad. I am happy and proud to have achieved this eighth victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. It was very important to continue in this way, especially after the win in the Dakar. We have picked up a lot of points for the championship and now it’s time to rest and think about the next round in Qatar.”

KTM also commented on Coma’s performance: “Coma rode his usual tactical race reflecting the multi Dakar Rally winner’s rich vein of experience. He secured the first stage win, rode into a favorable position for a good start in Stage Two, then rode a compact and close second in the next two stages, each day consolidating his overall lead.”

Rounding out the top five were KTM Factory rider Ruben Faria and the USA’s Ricky Brabec – an AMA National Hare & Hound Champion; Brabec piloted the Honda factory HRC Team’s CRF450 Rally.

Round two of the 2015 FIM World Cross Country Rallies Championship – the Sealine Rally Qatar – takes place in Qatar April 19-24.

2015 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Results (after Stage Four – Stage Five cancelled due to sand storm):
1. Marc Coma, ESP, KTM, 14 hours 49.05
2. Sam Sunderland, GBR, KTM at 11.55
3. Pablo Quintanilla, CHI, KTM at 20.16
4. Ruben Faria, POR, KTM at 28.01
5. Ricky Brabec, USA, Honda at 34.17
6. Moh. Al Balooshi, UAE, KTM at 44.48
7. Juan Salvatierra, BOL, KTM at 1:03.06
8. Matt Hart AUS, KTM at 1:13.15
9. J. Cornejo CHI, Suzuki at 1:13.31
10. David McBride, GBR, KTM 1:17.35