Just seven weeks after finishing the 2022 Dakar Rally, the newly formed FIM World Rally-Raid Championship lands in Abu Dhabi for round two of five scheduled events this season.

After taking victory at the Dakar Rally, round one of the new series, Sam Sunderland leads the points on his GASGAS. Sam will race the ADDC without his teammate Daniel Sanders who is still recovering from a broken arm after walloping a curb in Riyadh.

Pablo Quintanilla is second in the points and with his teammate Joan Barreda (not racing this week in Abu Dhabi due to injury) helps Monster Energy Honda lead the constructors’ classification, two points ahead of GASGAS.

Third on the Dakar podium means reigning world champion Matthias Walkner is third overall for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team who also sit in third place in the constructors’ classification.

KTM will field a full team of Walkner, the 2021 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner, Luciano Benavides and Toby Price. Honda meanwhile have Ricky Brabec and Jose Cornejo alongside Quintanilla.

After Skyler Howes crashed out on Dakar stage five, he arrives “not 100%” but still races in Abu Dhabi alongside teammate Luciano Benavides for the Husqvarna Factory Racing team.

Hero Motorsports team will be mob-handed though with third placed finisher at the 2021 ADDC Joaquim Rodrigues, plus Franco Caimi and their new signing Ross Branch.


A post shared by Ross Branch (@rossbranchbw)


Branch of course signed with Hero from Yamaha who have subsequently pulled the plug on their rally team leaving Adrien Van Beveren and Andrew Short high and dry. AVB was runner-up in Abu Dhabi last season but neither will be racing this year. Lorenzo Santolino meanwhile is the only Sherco rider racing this week.

Rally2 class

Mason Klein leads the way in Rally2 class having posted best rookie at the 2022 Dakar with the BAS World KTM Racing team. Camille Chapelière, second in the points, is no doubt still recovering from the Enduropale du Touquet last weekend and won’t be in Abu Dhabi which opens it up for Romain Dumontier and Bradley Cox to grabs some points. The Polish rider Konrad Dabrowski is one to watch also having finished fifth overall in the ADDC last year.

2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge schedule:

After administrative and technical checks on the Friday, Saturday sees riders face a crucial Super Special Stage (prologue) of just over two kilometres in the famous Yas Marina F1 circuit area.

‘Crucial’ because the start order is determined on that sprint shoot-out result and where you start each day – who leads and who follows – is always an important factor in rally-raid, especially in the dunes.

Stage               Date                Timed Special 

Prologue         5 March           2km    

Stage 1            6 March           262km

Stage 2            7 March           316km

Stage 3            8 March           255km

Stage 4            9 March           243km

Stage 5            10 March        209km

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is not known for having the hardest or longest stages in Rally-Raid but the Liwa desert is a vast sand sea and start order each day will affect stage results.

Sunday March 6 is the first timed special stage followed by a marathon stage over days two and three, where the bikes are prepped by the riders only and left in a parc fermé at the Qsar Al Sarab bivouac overnight.

The race concludes on Thursday March 10, again at the Yas Marina circuit, after a total 1945-kilometres including 1344 kilometres of timed special stages.

2022 Rally-Raid World Championship Riders standings after Rnd1:

  1. S. Sunderland            GASGAS 38
  2. P. Quintanilla              Honda 30
  3. M. Walkner                 KTM     24
  4. A. Van Beveren          Yamaha 20
  5. J. Barreda                   Honda 17
  6. J. Cornejo                   Honda 15
  7. R. Brabec                    Honda 14
  8. T. Price                        KTM     12
  9. L. Santolino                Sherco 11
  10. L. Benavides               Husqvarna 9

2022 Rally-Raid World Championship team standings after Rnd1:

  1. Monster Energy Honda Team 47 points
  2. GASGAS Factory Racing          38 points
  3. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing  36 points
  4. Sherco Factory                          14 points
  5. Hero Motorsports Team Rally 13 points
  6. Husqvarna Factory Racing      9 points


Photo Credit: Marcin Kin + N. Chidiac