Adrien Van Beveren (Monster Energy Honda) has won the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge for the first time in his career, beating Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna Factory Racing) and Toby Price (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing).
Toby Price had to dig deep on the final day but the effort was worth it with a podium for the event that catapulted the 35-year-old Aussie into the lead of the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship standings. However, with three rounds left to contest, there’s still a long way to go, starting with round three, the Sonora Rally in Mexico, from April 22-28.
After opening the stage on day four, through the toughest conditions seen at this year’s race, Toby Price came into the final day of the ADDC lying sixth overall and with a seventh-place start position. The two-time Dakar Champion had no option but to use the tracks left in the sand ahead of him to push as hard as he could and try to make up the maximum time on his rivals over the 206-kilometre timed special. And that’s exactly what he did!
Leading on time for the entire stage, Price steadily increased his advantage over the field to ultimately finish close to two and a half minutes ahead of the second-placed rider, Jose Ignacio Cornejo. That gap was crucial as it was Cornejo who Price edged out of podium contention by a mere two-seconds after well over 17 hours of racing.
Kevin Benavides (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), the previous leader following his triumph in the Dakar, slipped to third place, with 38 points, after cancelling his participation in the ADDC at the eleventh hour.
The fifth and last stage from the rally made the connection between Qasr Al Sarab and Abu Dhabi with a Special Stage of 206 kilometres long added by a liaison of 164 km. José Ignacio Cornejo was today the best rider of the team with a second place (2:12 minutes gap), while Van Beveren was 5th (3:22 minutes gap) and Ricky Brabec was 6th (4:35 minutes gap).
In the Manufacturers ranking from the World Rally Raid Championship – where the brand is the defending World Champion – Honda is now in second place with 75 points, nine points from the leader and still with many points to conquer in the three races that complete this year’s calendar.
Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2023
Stage Five Results
Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 2:24:45
Ignacio Cornejo (CHI), Honda, 2:27:08 +2:23
Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 2:27:14 +2:29
Ross Branch (BWA), Hero, 2:27:46 +3:01
Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Honda, 2:28:07 +3:22
Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2023
Provisional Final Standings
VAN BEVEREN Adrien 42 FRA Monster Energy Honda Team 17:13:39
BENAVIDES Luciano 77 ARG Husqvarna Factory Racing 17:17:57
PRICE Toby 18 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 17:18:52
CORNEJO José Ignacio 11 CHI Monster Energy Honda Team 17:18:54
EVAN BRANCH Ross 16 BWA Hero Motorsports Team Rally 17:19:56
HOWES Skyler 10 USA Husqvarna Factory Racing 17:20:02
BRABEC Ricky 2 USA Monster Energy Honda Team 17:23:44
Monster Energy Honda General Manager
“I have to make a positive general balance from this Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, although it was a pity that Pablo Quintanilla had to leave the race yesterday when he was fighting for the lead. José Ignacio Cornejo lost today the podium for just a tiny two seconds and this was a hard setback. But competition is like this and we have to move forward. I have to congratulate all the riders by their performance and dedication. Now the focus is the next round of the World Championship, the Sonora Rally in Mexico.”
Adrien Van Beveren – P1
“It feels really good to win, for me as a rider and also for the team that invested in me. It was a bit frustrating not to be in the podium in the last Dakar being so close. Now coming here and winning the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge just some weeks after the Dakar is a great feeling. This is very important for me and for the team to keep the motivation. For sure I will keep on working to get more victories but now is time to taste and enjoy the moment. Really happy with the atmosphere and spirit in the team, it is fantastic when you can win and have fun at the same time.”
Luciano Benavides – P2
“I’m so happy to take second place here in Abu Dhabi. I pushed so hard today and opened all the way – it was a tough and exhausting day. There was quite a lot of pressure this morning to do the stage at full gas, it was the only choice I had. But I think I did a good job and I’m happy with the result. To come away from the race with a podium and two stage wins is amazing. Of course, I want to win, but I think this is the best way to keep building race by race and the win will definitely come. I think I’m fourth in the championship now, so I’ll keep on giving my all and see what happens in Mexico.”
“I had to push really hard today. Opening on the long day four really knocked me back in the overall such were the conditions. I knew my only choice today was to push hard, and so I went as hard as I could possibly go for the whole 206 kilometres! To only just make the podium by two seconds is crazy. It shows the level of the riders at the moment in rally, with the results often coming down to seconds and not minutes – I think that’s really good for the championship. Lastly, the bike and the whole team have been great here in Abu Dhabi, working so hard to give us the tools we need. There’s a little bit of a gap now but then it’s on to Mexico for the next round.”
José Ignacio Cornejo – P4
“Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is over and today I did a good stage, but unfortunately this was not enough to assure a podium position. Today it was a true battle out there and we did our best to ride fast and safe. So I go home with a fourth place and happy with my Honda CRF 450 Rally and happy with the way I felt day by day. I am also happy for the team and for Adrian’s win.”
Skyler Howes – P6
“It’s been a good day for me today, I did my best and made it safely to the finish line of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Obviously, it would have been nice to finish a little higher up the order. There have been a couple of places where I could have done things better, but I’m happy with my riding here in the desert and I’ve gained a lot of experience for the future. We head to Mexico and the Sonora Rally next, which is a really special event for me, and I won it last year, so hopefully and can do the same again this season.”
Ricky Brabec – P7
“We made it to the finish of Stage five, first of all congrats for the all team. I am glad I made it to the end in one piece. Now we will take the positives and the negatives home with us and work on it to improve in the future. The next race is almost in my backyard so let’s try to win it. Now I also want to thank the whole team for their constant and amazing support.”
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