Husqvarna´s debut in motorcycle rally racing was launched at the opening round of the Rally Raid World
Championship, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
Dutchman Frans Verhoeven, who won a Dakar stage in January on a speedbrain BMW, and French Enduro and Rally
icon David Frétigné represented the white-and-red colors of Husqvarna in the Arabian desert.
The powerful and reliable engine out of the TE 449 Enduro bike and the rally chassis developed by speedbrain
proved to be a strong combination in the new TE 449 RR factory bike. Hot temperatures around 45 degrees, mixed
technical and fast sand tracks, endless and very soft dune sections as well as top speeds over 160 km/h
characterised the race through Abu Dhabi´s Liwa Desert.
The highly challenging five-day sand chase ended with a second place for Verhoeven in the final stage. The
Dutchman finishes fourth place overall, missing the podium by less than five minutes.
Frétigné had a good comeback following his severe spinal injury. After a five-month break the rally veteran is
getting adapted to speed again and is fully motivated to make further progress. He achieved two fourth places
as best day results, giving him seventh in the final standings.
At the first race day, Verhoeven lost about 13 minutes due to an navigation error. A final gap of 17 minutes
to winner Marc Coma and 12 minutes to runner-up Helder Rodrigues prove the competitiveness of bike and team.
The sandy conditions in Abu Dhabi required a lot from both the riders and engines. In particular the clutches
were tested to the extremes. With no problems whatsoever, the first outing of the new machine provided a very