Monster Energy/Honda HRC’s Adrien Van Beveren has done it! The Frenchman captured the overall motorcycle division championship at this week’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Round 2 of the 2023 FIA/FIM World Rally Raid Championship. Joining AVB in the overall top five in scoring were his Monster Energy/Honda HRC Jose Ignacio Cornejo in 4th place, and Monster Energy-backed Ross Branch (Hero Motorsports) in 5th position.
And rounding out Monster Energy’s position in the top ten overall at Abu Dhabi was an inspirational comeback performance from American Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy/Honda HRC), who fought back from injury at the World Rally Raid Championship’s opening round, the famed Dakar Rally, to place a highly respectable 7th at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
Ripping across Abu Dhabi’s seemingly infinite desert, known as “The Empty Quarter,” AVB parlayed a Stage 4 win on Thursday into the points lead, then brought ‘er home on Friday’s fifth and final stage in 5th place – securing the overall victory, the second World Rally Raid Championship victory of his career.
Said Van Beveren: “It feels really good to win, for me as a rider and also for the team that invested in me. It was a bit frustrating not to be on the podium in the last Dakar, and 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 the team to keep the motivation. For sure I will keep on working to get more victories, but now is time to taste and enjoy the moment. (I’m) Really happy with the atmosphere and spirit in the team. It is fantastic when you can win and have fun at the same time.”
This close to the overall podium at Abu Dhabi was Cornejo. The Chilean placed 2nd in today’s 5th and final stage, and finished a mere two seconds off the podium over six days of racing tricky Special Sections and demanding Liaisons through The Empty Quarter.
Said Cornejo: “The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is over, and today I did a good stage, but, unfortunately, this was not enough to assure a podium position. Today it was a true battle out there, and we did our best to ride fast and safe. So I go home with a 4th place. (I’m) 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 Adrien’s win.”
For Brabec, who placed 6th in Friday’s Stage 5 race, just to get himself back from injury and competition-ready was a feat. And the fact the former Dakar Rally overall winner was able to place in the top ten made the week even better.
Said Brabec: “We made it to the finish of Stage 5! First of all congrats for all of the team. I am glad I made it to the end in one piece. Now we will take the positives and the negatives home with us and work on it to improve in the future. The next race is almost in my backyard (Mexico, and Brabec’s from California), so let’s try to win it. Now I also want to thank the whole team for their constant and amazing support.”
The final Monster Energy-backed racer running great at Abu Dhabi was Branch, who placed a strong 4th in the final Stage 5, giving him a solid 5th place in the overall standings.
Said Branch: “It’s been a fantastic ride at Abu Dhabi 2023. I’m super happy with the result, even though I would have loved to be on the podium. We made a lot of good steps in the right direction this week with myself and the bike, and I’m really happy about that. We’re 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.”
Next up on the FIA FIM World Rally Raid Championship schedule is the Sonora Rally in Mexico, April 22-28. For more information on the World Rally Raid Championship, including live timing and scoring, check out the official series website.