2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: FIM World Rally-Raid Championship preview
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.
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.
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:
- S. Sunderland GASGAS 38
- P. Quintanilla Honda 30
- M. Walkner KTM 24
- A. Van Beveren Yamaha 20
- J. Barreda Honda 17
- J. Cornejo Honda 15
- R. Brabec Honda 14
- T. Price KTM 12
- L. Santolino Sherco 11
- L. Benavides Husqvarna 9
2022 Rally-Raid World Championship team standings after Rnd1:
- Monster Energy Honda Team 47 points
- GASGAS Factory Racing 38 points
- Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 36 points
- Sherco Factory 14 points
- Hero Motorsports Team Rally 13 points
- Husqvarna Factory Racing 9 points
Photo Credit: Marcin Kin + N. Chidiac