World Rally-Raid Championship

2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Stage 5 closes out W2RC Round 2

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Credit: Kin Marcin/Red Bull Content Pool

After five stages, the thirty-second Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is in the books. The final run from Qasr Al Sarab back to Abu Dhabi was a tight one as competitors hoped to rally for points in the World Rally-Raid Championship.

This was especially the case in RallyGP, where Adrien Van Beveren and Luciano Benavides were separated for the overall win by 2:58 entering Friday’s stage. Benavides, the winner of Stage #4, started first but was caught by much of his peers and finished seventh. Van Beveren was two spots ahead to seal his second W2RC victory after Andalucía in 2022.

Toby Price scored his second stage win of Abu Dhabi after Stage #3. The seven RallyGP finishers finished within just five minutes of each other. Mason Klein lost his clutch while Mohammed Al Balooshi was knocked out 120 kilometres before the finish due to an engine failure.

“I pushed so hard today and opened all the way. It was a tough and exhausting day,” said Benavides. “There was quite a lot of pressure this morning to do the stage at full gas, it was the only choice I had. But I think I did a good job and I’m happy with the result. To come away from the race with a podium and two stage wins is amazing. Of course, I want to win, but I think this is the best way to keep building race by race and the win will definitely come. I think I’m fourth in the championship now, so I’ll keep on giving my all and see what happens in Mexico.”

An even closer battle took place in Rally2 as the non-W2RC rider Tobias Ebster played spoiler to beat Paolo Lucci by just forty-nine seconds to seal the overall in his category. Jean-Loup Lepan, 3:20 back of Ebster, still won the class overall among championship contenders.

In T1, Henk Lategan closed out the rally on a high note by beating Sébastien Loeb by over two minutes. Interestingly, both were unable to secure the ADDC win as they retired due to mechanical problems in the early stages. Instead, Yazeed Al-Rajhi finished fifth to clinch the overall and became the first Saudi driver to win the ADDC.

Lategan is not competing for the W2RC, which keeps Loeb from adding an extra point to his T1 points lead over the retired Nasser Al-Attiyah. Stage winners receive five points towards the W2RC while second gets four and so on.

Mitch Guthrie held off Mattias Ekström by just fifty-four seconds for the T3 stage win, but penalties knocked Guthrie out of the top ten overall while Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team colleague Seth Quintero took the overall. Another Red Bull driver Rokas Baciuška won the T4 overall, though non-championship driver Mansour Al-Helei prevented him from claiming an extra bonus point for winning the stage as he won by 2:47.

For the second day in a row, the stage was delayed by an hour and a half due to fog grounding helicopters. Unlike Stage #4 in which the race distance was cut in half for the FIA classes due to the weather, the final leg was run in its entirety.

Stage #5 winners

T1211Henk Lategan*Toyota Gazoo Racing2:36:11
T3303Mitch GuthrieRed Bull Off-Road Junior Team2:42:56
T4405Mansour Al-Helei*Abu Dhabi Team2:51:54
RallyGP8Toby PriceRed Bull KTM Factory Racing2:24:45
Rally296Tobias Ebster*SRG Motorsports2:36:51
Quad174Abdulaziz AhliAbu Dhabi Team3:16:33
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

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
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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