Team HRC overcomes various setbacks to make it through the first day of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with Paulo Gonçalves and Ricky Brabec finishing the special among the front-runners in third and fifth respectively.
The asphalt of the Yas Marina circuit in the pre-rally build-up has given way to the sands of the Al Garbia region in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Riders were today confronted with a 260 kilometre timed special in high-temperature first stage that spanned a total of 404 kilometres.
Rally raid’s top guns let it be known from the start that the flavour of the day was all-out attack. Team HRC, with Joan Barreda at the helm, immediately took command, arriving at refuelling in top positions.
Spaniard Barreda had the misfortune to suffer an electrical fault some 40 km from the finish and dropped valuable time before getting the Honda CRF450 RALLY back on track and finishing the special.
Paulo Gonçalves, stopped briefly to lend a hand and sort out the glitch, conceding some time to his adversaries in the process, which he will hope to make up in tomorrow’s lengthy stage.
American rookie Ricky Brabec, in his maiden outing in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, found himself amid top-class competition and put in a worthy debut astride the Honda CRF450 RALLY.
Tomorrow the Liwa Desert will offer the longest stage in the competition with competitors looking to tackle more than 500 kilometres of desert, 279 km of which is against the clock. Start will be as motocross style.
Ricky Brabec -My first day here at the rally went good but I made a rookie mistake just trying to ride through the dust and I hit something on the road which popped me up and threw me on my side. Other than that it was a good day and I’m learning the way that the navigation works. I’m riding through the sand dunes and I’m seeing all these faster guys’ lines, how they approach it and how they ride down the back side of them. So today was a good day and hopefully the rest of the rally will be better.
Joan Barreda -Well, in the end it has been a complicated day. I got away very well with a really quick pace right from the start. I had some great riders up ahead and Ipushed really hard and everything was fine until we got up to CP3. Then I had an electric problem and the engine stopped– one of those things that happens. We are at the start and we have still got a whole year ahead, with the same bike and the same characteristics and the engineers are working hard and will be able to sort out any hitches and give us some more security.
Paulo Goncalves – I had a fairly difficult day today with high temperatures and a lot of sand and dunes. I was having a tough time at the start, but I started to feel better as the speed picked up after the refuelling. I found Juan with a problem with some 40 km still to go and I stopped to help out. I lost a bit of time, but the important thing is to finish. There are four days left and I hope to be in the running for the victory.