Paulo Gonçalves has won the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the first race in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship after winning the fifth and final stage of the race. Joan Barreda finished third and Hélder Rodrigues was fourth on the final day.
In what was a great all-round team effort as Team HRC starts the Rally Raid World Championships with an important victory combining a solid base, consistent work and faith in the final goal. Paulo Gonçalves rode his Honda CRF450 RALLY to perfection on the final day catching up with Marc Coma, at the second check-point, who was up alongside Joan Barreda opening the way in the special. From then on the Portuguese rider took control of the race and charged home, opening up a wide enough gap over his adversary to win both the stage and the overall triumph in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
Joan Barreda finished the stage in third, consolidating his third place in the overall standings. The Spanish rider won three of the rally’s specials. Portuguese team-mate Hélder Rodrigues finished fourth in the stage and seventh overall.
For both Gonçalves and Honda and HRC, this is the first win in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Paulo Gonçalves made an impeccable start to his world title defense, becoming the first leader of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship in 2014.
Next race: Sealine Cross-Country Rally (Qatar), from 20 to 25 April