Rallye

Adrien Van Beveren Takes Victory At 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

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Photo of Adrien Van Beveren, Toby Price and  Luciano Benavides at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
Adrien Van Beveren (C), Luciano Benavides (L), and Toby Price (R) are the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge top three.

Adrien Van Beveren has won the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge ahead of Luciano Benavides and Toby Price, Price now taking the lead in the 2023 FIM World Rally-Raid Championship Standings as a result.

The fifth and last stage of the rally made the connection between Qasr Al Sarab and Abu Dhabi with a Special Stage of 206 kilometers long added by a liaison of 164 km.

Fifth on the final stage was enough to give Van Beveren earned his second FIM World Rally-Raid Championship victory after he won the Andalucia Rally win last year. Van Beveren also moves to second position in the World Rally Raid Championship ranking with 42 points – just four behind Toby Price.

Photo of Adrien Van Beveren at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
Van Beveren’s victory in the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge was his second 2023 FIM World Rally-Raid Championship win. Photo: RallyZone

“It feels really good to win, for me as a rider and also for the team that invested in me,” The Frenchman said. “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 the 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.”

Photo of Adrien Van Beveren at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
Fifth place on the final stage was enough to give Adrien Van Beveren victory in the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Photo: RallyZone

Luciano Benavides has claimed second place overall. Opening the fifth and final stage, Benavides was able to lose the minimum of time to the chasing riders, earning himself just under five minutes in bonuses to secure his podium result.

After putting in day after day of impressive rides at this year’s ADDC, including two stage wins, Luciano Benavides has arguably delivered his best performance of the event by leading out the 206-kilometre final timed special from start to finish to secure his podium result. With the top five separated by just seven minutes going into the final day, and Benavides trailing the leader by just under three minutes, the Argentinian knew he would have to pull out all the stops.

Photo of Luciano Benavides at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
A solid constant five days saw Luciano Benavides finish in second place overall. Photo: RallyZone

Following a delayed start due to fog, Luciano set off into the stage, leaving behind tracks in the sand that his rivals could follow. Such was the 27-year-old’s progress over the open desert, although he was eventually caught, he maintained an super-strong pace from the front to ultimately complete the special in seventh place, under five minutes behind the eventual stage winner after well over two hours of racing. Overjoyed with his result, Benavides now looks ahead to round three of the championship where he hopes to carry his momentum into Mexico.

“I’m so happy to take second place here in Abu Dhabi,” Benavides said. “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.”

Photo of Toby Price at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
Toby Price jumped from sixth to third on the final stage and just made it onto the podium. The win giving the duel Dakar winner the lead in the 2023 FIM World Rally-Raid Championship Standings

Toby Price rebounded from an average stage yesterday with an outstanding ride on the fifth and final day, taking the stage win to secure himself a third-place overall result.

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-kilometer 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.

Toby’s podium result at round two, added to his runner-up finish at the Dakar Rally, move him 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.

“I had to push really hard today,” Price said. “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 kilometers! 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.”

Photo of Ignacio Cornejo at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
José Ignacio Cornejo lost out on a podium place by 2 seconds to Toby Price on the final stage. Photo: RallyZone

Chilean José Ignacio Cornejo was fourth overall just two seconds away from the podium.

“Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is over and today I did a good stage, but unfortunately this was not enough to assure a podium position,” Cornejo lamented. “Today it was a true battle out there and we did our best to ride fast and safe. So I go home with fourth place and was 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.”

Ross Branch followed up his impressive Dakar 2023 performance with a consistent result all through the five days of the rally, finishing well within the top-10 spots in every stage. In the fifth and final stage, he crossed the finish line in the 4th fastest time, and earned the 5th place in the overall standings of the rally.

“It’s been a fantastic ride at Abu Dhabi 2023. I am super happy with the result, even though I would have loved to be on the podium,” Branch said, “We took a lot of good steps in the right direction this week with myself and the bike, and I am really happy about that. We are up there for sure, the fight was really intense this week, and we managed to stay in the top consistently. A job well done by all the competitors – all of them pushed really hard, and it was great fun mixing up with them. I look forward to the next race in Mexico, and thank you all for your great support!”

Now the championship will be on standby until the end of April. The third race of this year’s calendar is the debut of the Sonora Rally (22-28 April) in Mexico.

Photo of Ross Branch at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
Ross Branch followed up his impressive Dakar 2023 performance with a consistent result all through the five days of the rally, finishing well within the top-10 spots in every stage and fifth overall.

Provisional Results – Stage 5 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2023
1 Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 2:24:45
2 Ignacio Cornejo (CHI), Honda, 2:27:08 +2:23
3 Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 2:27:14 +2:29
4 Ross Branch (BWA), Hero, 2:27:46 +3:01
5 Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Honda, 2:28:07 +3:22

Provisional Standings – Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2023 after 5 of 5 stages
1 Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Honda, 17:13:39
2 Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 17:17:57 +4:18
3 Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 17:18:52 +5:13
4 Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHI), Honda, 17:18:54 +5:15
5 Ross Branch (BWA), Hero, 17:19:56 +6:17

Provisional 2023 FIM World Rally-Raid Championship Standings after 2 rounds
1 Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 46 Points
2 Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Honda, 42 Points
3 Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 38 Points
4 Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 35 Points
5 Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 34 Points

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