World Rally-Raid Championship

2024 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: 101 on entry list

6 Mins read
Credit: Fernando Marmolejo/ASO

Despite only being the second round of the World Rally-Raid Championship, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will be missing some major star power as Dakar Rally overall winners Team Audi Sport and Monster Energy Honda Rally Team are absent. Forty-five drivers and fifty-six riders will hope to step it up in their place.

While Dakar bike winner Honda will return for the BP Ultimate Rally Raid in April, Audi is gone entirely: although Audi finally won the Dakar on the FIA side with Carlos Sainz and had plans of racing for the championship, a lack of suitable parts expedited their intended shutdown at the end of 2024 to Tuesday. Sainz, Mattias Ekström, and Stéphane Peterhansel are permitted to race for other teams and classes, though none are taking part. Peterhansel’s co-driver Édouard Boulanger will still show up to Abu Dhabi as the new navigator for Nasser Al-Attiyah, who parted ways with Mathieu Baumel after a successful decade in rally raid.

After his Dakar defence ended in disaster, Al-Attiyah hopes to make up lost ground with Prodrive. His ally Sébastien Loeb and Bahrain Raid Xtreme, who won five stages at Dakar, are not entered, though brothers Cristian and Marcos Baumgart will fill the void. With Audi and Loeb gone, the seventeen-driver Ultimate class is all the more up for grabs. Sainz’s absence means Toyota will have an opportunity to take the points lead courtesy of Overdrive Racing’s Guillaume de Mévius and Guerlain Chicherit, who respectively trail Sainz by eighteen and twenty points. Fellow Toyota driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi, fresh off winning the FIA Baja World Cup’s Saudi Baja, is aiming to go back-to-back in the ADDC.

A championship lead change is also guaranteed in Challenger as Mitch Guthrie is not racing either, which Rokas Baciuška hopes to capitalise on; Baciuška exited Dakar seventeen points behind Guthrie. Dakar winner Cristina Gutiérrez is entered but not competing for the championship. Austin Jones has a new navigator in Oriol Mena, who normally works with Eryk Goczał, following Gustavo Gugelmin’s de facto retirement after Dakar.

Yasir Seaidan finished third in SSV at Dakar, which gave him the category’s points lead as Xavier de Soultrait and Jérôme de Sadeleer were not eligible for points. He will have a new co-driver for Abu Dhabi in Michaël Metge, who replaces his younger brother Adrien.

RallyGP, despite being the top bike class, will feature a paltry four entrants. Honda made up the bulk of the class at Dakar but is skipping Abu Dhabi to give their six riders a rest (except for Tosha Schareina, who is competing in this weekend’s FIM E-Xplorer World Cup), while defending champion Luciano Benavides of Husqvarna as well as the KTM and GasGas factory teams are not racing for points. With so many riders skipping Abu Dhabi, Hero MotoSports has a golden opportunity as Ross Branch is virtually assured to take the points lead, currently trailing Honda’s Ricky Brabec by eight points, and Sebastian Bühler will try to bounce back from his Dakar crash. The only other two RallyGP riders entered, Mohammed Al-Balooshi and Aaron Marè, are not W2RC-eligible; Al-Balooshi is the reigning FIM Bajas World Cup champion who recently won the Saudi Baja, while Marè enters his first W2RC race since the 2022 Dakar Rally, incidentally racing for Hero that time.

Rally2 features forty-seven riders but the top two Romain Dumontier and Bradley Cox are not among them. Third-placed Jean-Loup Lepan will try to leapfrog both, tailing the former by fourteen, while series regular Michael Docherty is seeking to establish a foothold after crashing out of the opener. Lepan is one of just four riders in the top ten standings at Abu Dhabi alongside Tobias Ebster (seventh), Konrad Dąbrowski (ninth), and Jan Brabec (tenth). Although outside the top ten, David McBride and Oran O’Kelly have a chance to make significant leaps as well.

Ebster won both the ADDC in Rally2 and the Road to Dakar challenge in 2023, the latter granting him free registration for the Dakar. Justin Gerlach and Jonathan Savel hopes to do the same for Dakar 2025 through the RtD after coming up short last year, while Willem Avenant is striving for it in his first major step towards ‘decoding’ Dakar.

Saulius Klevinskas, a former goalkeeper who played for the Lithuanian national team, enters his first W2RC race after mainly competing in amateur rallies like the Breslau Rallye and Fenix Rally. Another series newcomer is Christoph Lischka, the head of development for BMW Motorrad. Kees Koolen, the 2022 W2RC Truck champion, makes his championship début on two wheels.

Although all Quad riders at Dakar are registered for the W2RC, Hani Al-Noumesi is the only one taking part at Abu Dhabi. Abdulaziz Ahli will be going for his fourth consecutive ADDC win in the class. Kamil Wiśniewski returns to the championship after missing Dakar with a knee injury.

The 2024 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge begins with the Prologue stage on 26 February and runs through 2 March.

UPDATE (20 February): Yahya Al-Helei will race a Challenger after previously being entered in the Ultimate class. He and his brother Mansour Al-Helei swap navigators, with Khalid Al-Kendi moving to Mansour’s side while Mohammed Hamri becomes Yahya’s. Pietro Cinotto will now have Szymon Gospodarczyk as co-driver instead of Alberto Bertoldi.

FIA entry list

Ultimate

NumberDriverCo-DriverTeamVehicleClass
201Guillaume de MéviusXavier PanseriOverdrive RacingToyota Hilux OverdriveT1+
202Guerlain ChicheritAlex WinocqOverdrive RacingToyota Hilux OverdriveT1+
203Lucas MoraesArmand MonleónToyota Gazoo RacingToyota GR DKR HiluxT1+
204Martin ProkopViktor ChytkaORLEN Jipocar TeamFord RaptorT1+
205Denis KrotovKonstantin ZhiltsovOverdrive RacingToyota Hilux OverdriveT1+
206Nasser Al-AttiyahÉdouard BoulangerNasser RacingProdrive HunterT1+
207Cristian BaumgartAlberto AndreottiX Rally TeamProdrive HunterT1+
208Saood VariawaFrançois CazaletToyota Gazoo RacingToyota GR DKR HiluxT1+
209Yazeed Al-RajhiTimo GottschalkOverdrive RacingToyota Hilux OverdriveT1+
210Juan Cruz YacopiniDaniel OliveirasOverdrive RacingToyota Hilux OverdriveT1+
211Seth QuinteroDennis ZenzToyota Gazoo RacingToyota GR DKR HiluxT1+
212Marcos BaumgartKleber CinceaX Rally TeamProdrive HunterT1+
213Pau NavarroAndreas SchulzX-raid Mini JCW TeamMini John Cooper Works Rally PlusT1+
214Aliyyah KolocSébastien DelaunayBuggyra ZM RacingRed-Lined REVOT1+
215Lionel BaudLucie BaudOverdrive RacingToyota Hilux OverdriveT1+
217Ahmed El Shamy*Hassan ObaidAhmed El ShamyFast & Speed 2WDT1.2
218Roman Starikovich*Bert HeskesRoman StarikovichToyota HiluxT1.1
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Challenger

NumberDriverCo-DriverTeamVehicle
301Rokas BaciuškaOriol VidalCan-Am Factory TeamCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo
302Marcelo GastaldiCarlos SachsBBR MotorsportMCE-5 Taurus T3 Max
303Nicolás CavigliassoValentina PertegariniWevers SportMCE-5 Taurus T3 Max
304Austin JonesOriol MenaCan-Am Factory TeamCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo
305Dania AkeelStéphane DupleWevers SportMCE-5 Taurus T3 Max
306Cristina Gutiérrez*Pablo Moreno HueteRed Bull Off-Road Junior TeamMCE-5 Taurus T3 Max
307Annett Quandt*Annie SeelX-raid Yamaha Supported TeamYamaha YXZ1000R Turbo Prototype
308Hernán Garcés*Juan Pablo LatrachSouth Racing Can-AmCan-Am Maverick
309Khalid Aljafla*Andrei RudnitskiAljafla RacingCan-Am Maverick R
310Pál Lónyai*Filippo IppolitoX-raid Yamaha Supported TeamYamaha YXZ1000R Turbo Prototype
311Gunter Hinkelmann*Fabrizio BianchiniBBR MotorsportMCE-5 Taurus T3 Max
312Puck Klaassen*Augusto SanzWevers SportMCE-5 Taurus T3 Max
313Yahya Al-Helei*Mohammed HamriR-X SportCan-Am Maverick

SSV

NumberDriverCo-DriverTeamVehicle
400Yasir SeaidanMichaël MetgeMMP CompétitionCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo
401Sara PriceJeremy GraySouth Racing Can-AmCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo
402João FerreiraFilipe PalmeiroSouth Racing Can-AmCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo
403Sebastián GuayasamínFernando Matias AcostaFN Speed TeamCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo
404Enrico GaspariAlberto MarconTH-Trucks TeamPolaris RZR Pro R
405Ricardo RamiloFausto MotaScuderia Ramilo RodamotoCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo
406Rebecca BusiSergio LafuenteOnlyFans RacingCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo
407Michele CinottoMaurizio DominellaXtremeplusPolaris RZR Pro R
408Claude FournierSerge GounonMMP CompétitionCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo
409Robert Szustkowski*Albert GryszcukRobert SzustkowskiPolaris RZR Pro R
410Piotr Beaupre*Jarosław KazberukPiotr BeauprePolaris RZR Pro R
411Mansour Al-Helei*Khalid Al-KendiMansour Al-HeleiCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo
412Atif Alzarouni*Mohammed Hasan InnabAtif AlzarouniYamaha YXZ1000R SS
413Justas Grendelis*Simonas RamanauskasJustas GrendelisCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo
414Pietro Cinotto*Szymon GospodarczykXtremeplusPolaris RZR Pro R

FIM entry list

RallyGP

NumberRiderTeamBike
14Sebastian BühlerHero MotoSportsHero 450 Rally
25Mohammed Al-Balooshi*MX Ride DubaiKTM 450 Rally
44Aaron Marè*SRG MotorsportsKTM 450 Rally Replica
46Ross BranchHero MotoSportsHero 450 Rally

Rally2

NumberRiderTeamBike
22Michael DochertySRG MotorsportsHusqvarna FC 450 Rally
26Konrad DąbrowskiDUUST Rally TeamKTM 450 Rally Replica
33Jan BrabecStrojrent RacingKTM 450 Rally Replica
34Jonathan Savel* #Jonathan SavelKTM 450 Rally Replica
35Damien Bataller* #Team DB RacingKTM 450 Rally
36Jean-Philippe Revolte* #JBS MotoKTM 450 Rally
37Jiří BrožSRG MotorsportsKTM 450 Rally Replica
38Sarath Mohan*SRG MotorsportsHusqvarna FE 450
40Hamdan Al-Ali* #Hamdan Al-AliHusqvarna FE 450
41Badr Al-Hamdan* #Badr Al-HamdanYamaha WR450F Rally
43Happy Verma*SRG MotorsportsKTM 450 EXC-F
45Jatin Jain*SRG MotorsportsKove 450 Rally
47Blas Zapag Peralta*HT Rally Raid HusqvarnaHusqvarna FR 450 Rally
48Axel Mustad*HT Rally Raid HusqvarnaHusqvarna FR 450 Rally
49Nerimantas Jucius*HT Rally Raid HusqvarnaHusqvarna FR 450 Rally
50Willem Avenant*HT Rally Raid HusqvarnaHusqvarna FR 450 Rally
51Kees Koolen*HT Rally Raid HusqvarnaHusqvarna FR 450 Rally
53Filip Grot*DUUST Rally TeamKTM 450 Rally Replica
55Ehab Al-Hakeem* #Ehab Al-HakeemYamaha WR450F Rally
56Gediminas Satkus*AG Dakar SchoolKTM 450 Rally
57Saulius Klevinskas*AG Dakar SchoolKTM 450 Rally
58Abdulhaim Al-Mogeera*Abdulhaim Al-MogeeraKTM 450 Rally
59Martin Chalmers* #Martin ChalmersGasGas 450 Rally
60Stephan Preuss* #Stephan PreussKTM 450 Rally
61Florian Dietrich* #Florian Dietrich*KTM 450 Rally
62Christoph Lischka*Christoph LischkaKTM 450 Rally
63Stephan Breisach*Stephan BreisachKTM 450 Rally
64Lothar HartmannLothar Hartmann*KTM 450 Rally
65Justin Gerlach*Justin GerlachKTM 450 Rally
66Iván Merichal Resina*Xraids ExperienceKTM 450 Rally Factory Replica
67Rolando Martinez*Xraids ExperienceKTM 450 Rally Factory Replica
68Murun Purevdorj*Murun PurevdorjKTM 450 EXC
69Marwan Al-Rahmani*ADNOCKTM 450 Rally
70Mykolas Paulavičius*DUUST Rally TeamKTM 450 Rally Replica
71Edvard Sokolovskij*AG Dakar SchoolKTM 450 Rally
76Jean-Loup LepanDUUST Rally TeamKTM 450 Rally Replica
77Oran O’KellyVendetta Racing UAEKTM 450 Rally
80Jack Murray*Jack MurrayHusqvarna 450 Rally
81Jacek Bartoszek*MX Ride DubaiHusqvarna 450 Rally
82Sultan Al-BlooshiMX Ride DubaiHusqvarna 450 Rally
90William McBride*Vendetta Racing UAEKTM 450 Rally Replica
91Thomas Childs*Vendetta Racing UAEKTM 450 Rally
92David Mabbs*Vendetta Racing UAEHusqvarna FR 450 Rally
93David McBrideVendetta Racing UAEHusqvarna FR 450 Rally
94Abdulla Lanjawi*SRG MotorsportsKove 450 Rally
95Leo Conaboy*Leo ConaboyKTM 450 Rally
96Tobias EbsterSRG MotorsportsGasGas 450 Rally
Bold – Junior Trophy
Italics – Veteran Trophy
# – Malle Moto

Quad

NumberRiderTeamQuad
172Kamil WiśniewskiORLEN TeamYamaha Raptor 700
173Paweł Otwinowski*DUUST Rally TeamYamaha Raptor 700
174Abdulaziz AhliAbu Dhabi TeamYamaha Raptor 700
179Hani Al-NoumesiHani Al-NoumesiYamaha Raptor 700
180Hans Brehmer*Hans BrehmerYamaha Raptor 700
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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