Pablo Quintanilla has taken victory at the opening round of the 2018 Cross Country Rallies World Championship – the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.


Pablo Quintanilla won a tactical see-saw battle with rivals Sam Sunderland and Kevin Benavides to finish five minutes clear by the end of stage five in the UAE.

The final stage of the rally got off to an MX-style start with the riders in line. The fastest riders formed a group over the opening stretches of the 218 kilometre special.

Reports say the course gradually turned to dusty tracks which meant riders had to slow and spread out to avoid the dangers of visibility.

At the head of the field on stage five though was Dakar champion, Matthias Walkner dictating the pace with Honda’s Kevin Benavides coming home within one second of each other.


Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge rallyzone edoardo bauer 3 Enduro21 560

Photo Credit: Edoardo Bauer/Rally Zone


Sam Sunderland finished just 19seconds back and cemented second overall in the event. Toby Price was fourth on the stage with Quintanilla just 1:25s behind.

Retaining his lead in the overall classification, the Husqvarna rider wrapped up the 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge five minutes and 11 seconds ahead of his nearest rival.

“I’m really happy to get the win in Abu Dhabi and it’s been a fantastic start to the new season.” Said Quintanilla.

“This year’s Desert Challenge has been a really tough race from the beginning until the end. During these last few days we battled through extreme heat and the massive sand dunes of the area. There were many high-speed tracks and lots of off-piste sections where navigation was crucial. We also had some great fights with my main competitors and I’m happy I came out on top.”


Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Pablo.Quintanilla Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Abu Dhabi2018 038

Photo Credit: Marcin Kin


2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Stage 5 Classification

  1. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 02:46:40
  2. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 02:46:40.05
  3. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 02:46:59
  4. Toby Price (KTM) 02:47:26
  5. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 02:48:05


2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Final Overall Standings

  1. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 16:51:11
  2. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 16:56:22
  3. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 16:59:45
  4. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 17:00:47
  5. Paulo Goncalves (Honda) 17:09:46



jon.pearson enduro21 april 2017

Jon Pearson
Enduro21 Editor and Bike Tester