World Rally-Raid Championship

2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Penalty swings T4 win for Rokas Baciuska

3 Mins read
Credit: Kin Marcin/Red Bull Content Pool

Twelve minutes and three seconds separated the top two in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge‘s T4 category, but a fifteen-minute penalty was the ultimate decider of who won.

Reigning World Rally-Raid Champion Rokas Baciuška and non-W2RC competitor Mansour Al-Helei were the class of the field in Abu Dhabi as they each won three stages apiece including the former taking the Prologue. However, Baciuška never lost the overall lead at any point as Al-Helei was forced to play catch-up when he had fifteen minutes added to his time for missing a waypoint in Stage #1.

Despite the hometown driver’s best efforts as he won the final two legs, Baciuška finished behind him by less than four minutes in both and Al-Helei was only able to close the gap to 12:03. Had it not been for the penalty, he would have pulled off the upset. Al-Helei and Rally2 overall victor Tobias Ebster are the only entrants to win a stage while not racing for the world championship.

“It was an amazing adventure for us. I really love every kilometre of (the) Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge,” Al-Helei told Cross-Country Rally News. “It’s been a pleasure racing against top drivers and world champions, Dakar winners racing with them side by side. It’s an amazing experience. Unfortunately for me, this year, yes we missed a waypoint and had a penalty, but the bright side I kept pushing and I kept seeing my rhythm with the top people. For me, three stage wins against top drivers is amazing.”

With Al-Helei not competing for the W2RC, Baciuška ended up maximising his points earned among eligible drivers as he always finished either first or second behind Al-Helei. Al-Helei also would have done the same had it not been for his first-stage penalty that dropped him from second to fifth.

Due to Dakar winner Eryk Goczał bowing out of the championship to focus on academics, Baciuška is the new W2RC points leader in the class. He had finished second to Goczał in the season opener.

“It seems like only five days, but they were so different, full of challenges,” wrote Baciuška. “The team and I gave everything to reach the finish line as winners. Thank you for your faith, support, congratulations – feels good to bring the honorable first place to our country and city!”

The ADDC was not without some incident for Baciuška off the track as his Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing team was fined €1,000 for a missed W2RC entry payment. Baciuška also received a reprimand from the FIA after Stage #1 for having guests from a sponsor, who were attending their first rally, at an unauthorised location, a violation of the Cross-Country Rally Sporting Regulations’ Article 49.2.1 (any personnel, team or otherwise, cannot be within a kilometre of the race vehicle outside of certain areas like media zones) for which Baciuška apologised. Nevertheless, the Red Bull Can-Am family still enjoyed a strong rally with Baciuška’s T4 win and Seth Quintero claiming T3.

Pau Navarro joined Baciuška and Al-Helei on the podium to wrap up another strong round for the teenager.

Michèle Cinotto and Eugenio Amos retired from the race. Amos, who placed as high as third in Stage #1, suffered a mechanical issue before the final day. Cinotto struggled with motion sickness during the opening stage—which also forced T1 competitor Guerlain Chicherit to exit—before crashing out in Stage #3.

Cinotto’s Xtremeplus team-mates Enrico Gasparti and Shinsuke Umeda were more fortunate as they were among the seven T4 finishers. Umeda placed third among W2RC drivers after a scramble to the finish as his co-driver Aku Facundo Jaton needed to make a flight to Argentina by the end of the final day.

Umeda remarked afterwards, “I think the course itself was more sophisticated than the Dakar, but it feels like the drivers were causing a lot of incidents on their own and ruining it…”

T4 overall results

FinishNumberDriverCo-DriverTeamTimeMargin
1400Rokas BaciuškaOriol VidalRed Bull Can-Am Factory Racing17:25:47Leader
2405Mansour Al-Helei*Mohamed Al-HamriAbu Dhabi eam17:37:50+ 12:03
3401Pau NavarroFrançois CazaletFN Speed Team17:51:47+ 26:00
4408Abdullah Al-Rawahi*Nasser Saadon Al-KuwariR-X Sport21:39:07+ 4:13:20
5406Enrico Gasparti*Loïc MinaudierXtremeplus23:09:46+ 5:43:59
6402Shinsuke UmedaAku Facundo JatonXtremeplus37:46:35+ 20:20:48
7407Ricardo Ramilo*Dmytro TsyroRicardo Ramilo41:30:48+ 24:05:01
DNF403Michèle CinottoMaurizio DominellaXtremeplusDNFN/A
DNF404Eugenio Amos*Ceci PaoloSouth Racing Can-AmDNFN/A
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

T4 stage winners

StageNumberDriverTeamTime
Prologue400Rokas BaciuškaRed Bull Can-Am Factory Racing5:19
Stage #1400Rokas BaciuškaRed Bull Can-Am Factory Racing3:37:40
Stage #2405Mansour Al-Helei*Abu Dhabi Team3:58:22
Stage #3400Rokas BaciuškaRed Bull Can-Am Factory Racing4:08:58
Stage #4405Mansour Al-Helei*Abu Dhabi Team2:36:48
Stage #5405Mansour Al-Helei*Abu Dhabi Team2:51:54

Overall winners

ClassNumberCompetitorTeamTime
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 standings

Drivers’ standings

RankDriverPointsMargin
1Rokas Baciuška134Leader
2Eryk Goczał86– 48
3Pau Navarro73– 61
4Marek Goczał67– 67
5Michal Goczał50– 84
6Shinsuke Umeda44– 90
7Yasir Seaidan35– 99
8Bruno Conti de Oliveira30– 104
T-9Sebastián Guayasamin27– 107
T-9Rodrigo Luppi de Oliveira27– 107
11Molly Taylor20– 114
12Nicolás Cavigliasso13– 121

Co-drivers’ standings

RankCo-DriverDriverPointsMargin
1Oriol VidalRokas Baciuška134Leader
2Oriol MenaEryk Goczał86– 48
3Maciej MartonMarek Goczał67– 67
4Szymon GospodarczykMichal Goczał50– 84
5François CazaletPau Navarro45– 89
6Aku Facundo JatonShinsuke Umeda44– 90
7Alexey KuzmichYasir Seaidan35– 99
8Pedro Bianchi PrataBruno Conti de Oliveira30– 104
9Michaël MetgePau Navarro28– 106
T-10Ricardo TorlaschiSebastián Guayasamin27– 107
T-10Maykel JustoRodrigo Luppi de Oliveira27– 107
12Andrew ShortMolly Taylor20– 114
13Valentina PeregariniNicolás Cavigliasso13– 121
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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