The Cross-Country Rallies World Championship began on Monday with Marc Coma leading the first Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge special stage.
Coma, winner of the last three editions of the race, attacked the lead from the opening kilometre onwards in order to gain an early advantage in the event which lasts a total of five days.
The first special stage was contested over 285km and saw Coma come in 1m 9s ahead of second-placed KTM team-mate Helder Rodrigues and 2m 42s in front of third-placed Sam Sunderland.
The race soon headed off in a southerly direction, into the desert and the dunes. On an off-road section that placed less emphasis on navigation than the Dakar Rally (GPS was allowed on permanent activation), Coma began to create distance between himself and the trailing riders. He made the most of the more bearable temperatures of the earlier part of the day, knowing that the southerly descent would bring with it a more intense heat.
"I am happy with how the stage went today," said Coma. "We are already in the desert and taking on an important stage that is 280km in length was a tough start against the clock. We headed south in the direction of the desert and were able to tackle the first dunes and long off-road sections. It was a problem-free stage and I was trying to put down the fastest pace possible in order to take an early advantage."
The MRW rider will take on another special stage of a similar distance on Tuesday: 283km against the clock over the Abu Dhabi dunes.
Stage 1 Results:
1. Marc Coma 03:33:22
2. Helder Rodrigues +00:01:09
3. Sam Sunderland +00:02:42
4. Paulo Gonçalves +00:06:48
5. Jordi Viladoms +00:10:29