World Rally-Raid Championship

2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Abdulaziz Ahli three-peats in Quads

3 Mins read
Credit: Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Abdulaziz Ahli continued to solidify himself as the best FIM rider on four wheels at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge when he dominated the 2023 edition to win for an unprecedented third year in a row.

Ahli entered as the obvious favourite with his 2021 and 2022 ADDC victories—the only Quad rider with consecutive wins—and being the twice reigning Dubai Endurocross champion. He would score the most stage wins across all classes by taking five of the six legs including the Prologue.

The lone leg he failed to win was Stage #2 when Laisvydas Kancius beat him by just 1:55. However, Kancius and the other four riders in the class had already fallen behind after Ahli beat runner-up Rodolfo Guillioli by 24:24 after the first stage and they were unable to recover as Ahli rode off to more stage victories. Kancius had lost momentum in Stage #1 after receiving a penalty and running out of fuel.

Nevertheless, Kancius left Abu Dhabi as the World Rally-Raid Championship Quad points leader. Ahli, who did not run the season-opening Dakar Rally like Kancius, sits fourth.

“In general, I would evaluate the competition positively: I won one speed section, there was a fairly close fight on the track with Abdulaziz Ahli, who won the overall, when there were no disturbances, the pace was good, the four-wheeler was patient and reliable,” wrote Kancius on social media.

“One of the goals in this competition was to earn as many points as possible and to move up from third place in the overall standings. I succeeded – I currently have 44 points in my account and I have risen to the first place in the overall standings of the World Championship!”

CFMOTO team-mates Adomas Gančierius and Antanas Kanopkinas mostly rode together. The strategy bore mixed results that ranged from highs like finishing third and fourth in each of the final three legs to running out of gas while on the same dune in Stage #1. By the end, Gančierius was able to secure a podium.

“The whole rally, as its name suggests, is a real desert challenge,” said Kanopkinas, who finished fifth. “There were difficult moments, but overall everything is really very good. I would be happy to ride it again.

“All days we rode on bigger or smaller dunes and it allowed us to discover the strong and weak points of our technique. After covering so many kilometres, we discovered what improvements we need to make to the quads. We will now be even more prepared for (the) Dakar Rally.”

Guillioli’s ADDC was overshadowed by a three-hour penalty for making repairs in an unapproved location under marathon conditions, which requires competitors to work on their vehicles in a special “Work Park” area without outside assistance, in Stage #3. His quad broke down due to a spark plug issue later in the stage to further knock him down and he settled for fourth.

Paweł Otwinowski suffered a mechanical failure that prevented him from starting Stage #2, but was able to keep going afterwards and reached the finish.

While somewhat aided by the fact that there were only six riders, the Quads were the only category at the ADDC in which every entry completed the race.

Quad overall results

1174Abdulaziz AhliAbu Dhabi Team22:01:51Leader
2162Laisvydas KanciusAG Dakar School23:07:33+ 1:05:42
3160Adomas GančieriusCFMOTO Thunder Racing Team27:02:17+ 5:00:26
4165Rodolfo GuillioliRodolfo Guillioli27:54:27+ 5:52:36
5161Antanas KanopkinasCFMOTO Thunder Racing Team44:09:15+ 22:07:24
6164Paweł Otwinowski*DUUST Diverse Rally Racing55:36:00+ 33:34:09
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Quad stage winners

Prologue174Abdulaziz AhliAbu Dhabi Team47:36
Stage #1174Abdulaziz AhliAbu Dhabi Team3:52:17
Stage #2162Laisvydas KanciusAG Dakar School4:21:45
Stage #3174Abdulaziz AhliAbu Dhabi Team4:48:57
Stage #4174Abdulaziz AhliAbu Dhabi Team4:52:48
Stage #5174Abdulaziz AhliAbu Dhabi Team3:16:33

Overall winners

T1207Yazeed Al-RajhiOverdrive Racing16:28:06
T3302Seth QuinteroRed Bull Off-Road Junior Team16:58:31
T4400Rokas BaciuškaRed Bull Can-Am Factory Racing17:25:47
RallyGP42Adrien Van BeverenMonster Energy Honda Rally Team17:13:39
Rally296Tobias Ebster*SRG Motorsports2:36:51
Quad174Abdulaziz AhliAbu Dhabi Team22:01:51

W2RC Quad standings

1Laisvydas Kancius44Leader
2Pablo Copetti38– 6
3Juraj Varga30– 14
4Abdulaziz Ahli25– 19
5Carlos Alejandro Verza20– 24
6Adomas Gančierius16– 28
7Rodolfo Guillioli13– 31
8Antonas Kanopkinas11– 33
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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