In the motorbike race, Adrien Van Beveren (Monster Energy Honda) 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). Price vaulted to the top of the championship ranking with 46 points to VBA's 42. 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. In the car race, Yazeed Al Rajhi (Overdrive Racing) added his name to the honour roll of the race. Martin Prokop (Orlen Benzina Team) repeated his exploit from last season with second place overall, while Seth Quintero (Red Bull Off-Road Jr Team USA) placed his T3 on the bottom step of the podium. Sébastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) expanded his lead in the championship to 111 points to Nasser Al Attiyah's 85, thanks to the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver's withdrawal two days ago. Martin Prokop climbed up to third with 64 points.
FIM: THE RACE GOES TO VAN BEVEREN AND THE LEAD TO PRICE
Adrien Van Beveren seized the lead of the ADDC in stage 2 and held onto the top spot until the end of the high-stakes finale. Following his late-season triumph in Andalusia last year, the Frenchman's victory in Abu Dhabi makes it two wins out of four since he moved to Honda. He also added his name to the list of winners of the ADDC after finishing as runner-up in 2021. Much like VBA, Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna Factory Racing) defended his second place until the end. Toby Price unleashed a barrage of attacks over more than 200 km to secure third stage overall. The absence of the reigning world champion, Sam Sunderland, and the victor of the fist round, Kevin Benavides, both of whom were injured in the week before the ADDC, paved the way for Toby Price to surge to the top of the championship standings, now with 46 points. VBA brought his tally to 42 —the lucky number he sports in every race! Kevin Benavides is still on the podium thanks to the 38-point haul from his victorious Dakar campaign. His brother, Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna Factory Racing), is fourth with 35 points after bagging two specials this week. The red bikes prevailed in this round of the manufacturer championship, courtesy of VBA's triumph and Nacho Cornejo's fourth place, but KTM held onto the overall lead with 84 points to Honda's 74. Husqvarna is third with 69.
In the Rally2 category, Tobias Ebster (SRG Motorsports), the nephew of Heinz Kinigadner, a legendary rider for KTM who took the inaugural edition of the ADDC motorbike race back in 1995, made a strong impression and seems poised to light up the remaining legs of the championship, although he was not eligible for the classification. The Austrian, an entrant in the Road to Dakar challenge held in every round of the W2RC, earned a ticket to the 2024 Dakar. In the W2RC, Jean-Loup Lepan (Duust Diverse Racing) took home the trophy ahead of Paolo Lucci (BAS World KTM Racing), who led the ADDC until a crash in stage 4. Toni Mulec, the Italian's teammate, came in third. Lucci remains in command of the ranking with 50 points to Lepan's 45. Romain Dumontier (HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing), who came out of the Dakar in the overall lead, is now third with 38 points. Mulec is fourth with 30.
The Emirati Abdulaziz Ahli (Abu Dhabi Team) claimed his third win in a row in the quad race after firing a blank in the Dakar. He proved stronger than Laisvydas Kancius (AG Dakar School), who only managed to snatch one stage from the local hero. The Lithuanian rose to the top of the championship standings with 44 points to Copetti's 38 and Varga's 30. Ahli scaled up to fourth with 25 points. Two other Lithuanians, Gančierius (16 points) and Kanopkinas (11 points), opened their account, as did Rodolfo Guillioli (13 points), one of the sensations of the previous season.
FIA: AL RAJHI PREVAILS AS LOEB TIGHTENS HIS GRIP
Yazeed Al Rajhi took his maiden victory in the ADDC, becoming the first Saudi winner of the race to boot. It was also his first ever W2RC triumph and the second consecutive win for a Hilux this season, following Al Attiyah's success in the Dakar. Martin Prokop repeated his performance from last year to finish second in his Ford Ranger. In another echo of 2022, a Red Bull Off-Road Jr Team USA T3 claimed third place. After "Chaleco" López last year, this time round it was Seth Quintero who came out on top in his South Racing / Can-Am. The top three drivers in the championship following the Dakar all ran into big trouble in the ADDC, but Guerlain Chicherit (GCK Motorsports) and Al Attiyah, second and third going into the second leg of the season, paid a heftier price than the leader. They went home from the race empty-handed, whereas the Frenchman padded his lead by 14 points thanks to a series of strong performances in the last three stages. Loeb now has 101 points to Al Attiyah's 85. Prokop gained one position and is now third with 64 points. Al Rajhi was the biggest winner, leaping from tenth to fourth with 63 points. Jan Cruz Yacoponi (Overdrive Racing), fifth, and Chicherit, sixth, have 49 points apiece. Sebastián Halpern (X-raid Mini JCW) is seventh with 43. The setbacks experienced by the three former leaders of the ranking allowed their pursuers to narrow the gap. In the manufacturer ranking, Toyota Gazoo Racing benefited from Al Rajhi's victory and Yacopini's fourth place to increase its lead to 120 points to BRX's 79. In the T3 category, Seth Quintero (Red Bull Off-Road Jr Team USA) clinched the race ahead of Austin Jones (Red Bull Can-Am Factory) after a series of exciting duels with Mattias Ekström, who had two off days. His teammate Cristina Gutiérrez was also unlucky, paving the way for the other woman in the field, Aliyyah Koloc (Buggyra ZM Racing), to finish third in the W2RC standings for this leg. The championship ranking is singing a full-throated rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner", with Quintero in the top spot with 127 points to Jones's 121 and Guthrie Jr.'s 81. Meanwhile, Rokas Baciuška (Red Bull Can-Am Factory) dominated Pau Navarro (FN Speed) in the T4 race. The reigning world champion wrapped up the ADDC in the lead with 134 points to his name. The Dakar champion, Eryk Goczał (Energylandia Rally Team), has 86. Navarro is third with 73. Shinuke Umeda and his Polaris, another big attraction of the week, gained ground and is now sixth with 44 points.
The next round of the championship will take place in Mexico from 22 to 28 April, with the Sonora Rally making its first appearance in the championship.