The latest edition of the Rallys Cross Country World Championship begins in Abu Dhabi tomorrow, featuring four-time titlist Marc Coma. The MRW rider will take part in the prologue for the race this afternoon before the event itself, which runs until Friday and covers 2000km in the Arab Emirate. Coma has already won the race on five occasions, including the last three editions (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 & 2011).
This is the first race in the World Championship and comes after the Dakar. How do you feel and how are you approaching the challenge?
“I am really motivated and raring to start. We have been able to prepare relatively well for the race, having rested up a little after the Dakar, so we are already excited to get going with a new season.”
You have five victories to your name in Abu Dhabi and have won the last three races. Does this make you the favourite?
“Looking at the entry list, all the top riders in this discipline are here, with the exception of Cyril Despres and ‘Chaleco’ LÃ³pez. We know that World Championship races are more intense events, more of a sprint and are less about navigation, especially this race. That means that we will have to be very competitive and make no mistakes. I don’t think that there are any favourites; We will see where we end up.”
With the absentees that you mentioned, who are going to be your main rivals?
“Looking at the most recent race, the Dakar, I think that HÃ©lder Rodrigues and Joan Barreda stand out as tough opponents, although you can’t forget about anybody —especially the likes of Jordi Viladoms and Gerard FarrÃ©s.”
You say that this is a race that you don’t know too well. What awaits you on Monday?
“There are a lot of dunes, open desert terrain and extreme heat to contend with. The Abu Dhabi race is always very tough and very demanding, because you come across temperatures of over 43ºC and you are always on the sand. This requires an enormous effort, both physically and in terms of your riding.”
Looking around, it seems that more and more factories are making a bigger presence in the competition. How does this affect the championship?
“It’s true that more and more factories are entering the series in a more serious way, but at KTM we don’t drop our guard and keep working, evolving and maintaining the small advantage that we hold over the rest of the field thanks to our long term effort.”
The aim for the year is to fight for the title again?
“With the cancelation of the Tunisian and Moroccan rounds, the calendar is very slimmed down. We are only going to compete over four races. Obviously we will try to win them all, but the aim is not the title at the moment as we haven’t even begun. We will be taking things race by race and will go almost straight to Qatar after Abu Dhabi, so from then on we will see what targets to set.”
Qatar is a new round. What do you expect there?
“It will be a bit of a step into the unknown, as it is the first time that the race has featured on the calendar and I have never ridden there. However, I don’t think that it will be much different to the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, because geographically speaking the two places aren’t too far apart. Despite this, each race has its own characteristics and we will have to wait and see what will greet us.”