Monster Energy Honda Team get the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship underway in Abu Dhabi with the Super Special at the Yas Marina Circuit.

A curtain-raiser of just over two kilometres of Super Special marked the opening of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge at the Yas Marina Circuit this afternoon and decided the starting order for tomorrow’s first full stage. The track proved to be a slippery, hazardous affair and given that the surface had caused a few falls and skids, many of the riders decided to take it easy and minimize risks.

Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves was the first of the Monster Energy Honda Team duo to cross the line, some 5.3 seconds behind the day’s winner Sam Sunderland.

Kevin Benavides came home tucked in behind with a marginally greater time, just eight seconds adrift of Sunderland in eighth place. The Argentinean rider is back in action after over three months out due to a right hand injury. The promising young rider will use the event to progressively get back into the swing of racing after the lengthy hiatus.

The first fifteen finishers will be able to choose the starting order for the first stage and, as is habitual, the first finishers are likely to choose to attack from the rear of the field tomorrow. The Honda CRF450 RALLY riders will start out from around the twentieth position.

Tomorrow, competitors get to tackle the first full stage which will take place entirely in the Liwa. On the agenda are 276.59 kilometres of timed special in a total stage of 418.96 km. The Qsar Al Sarab bivouac situated in the Liwa oasis will be home to the riders for the forthcoming days.

Paulo Goncalves

PROLOG: 7th +5.3

We got the race in Abu Dhabi off to a start with a short prologue. It was very slippery and as it was like that I decided to take things very carefully. I finished in a position that allows me to choose the starting position tomorrow when the race really gets going. I will try and do my best and try and enjoy the race with the team.

Kevin Benavides

PROLOG: 8th +8.0

It was a very short prologue of just a couple of minutes. I didn’t feel good at all with the terrain. I was skidding about and, to be quite honest, I didn’t want to take any chances so soon after having had the operation. I hope to pick things up from now on and tomorrow we will start to pick up the pace in the desert and dispute the stages there.

2017 Cross-Country Rallies
Prologue Round FIM-1 , 1   Abu Dhabi

Super Special Stage (Prologue) Abu Dhabi 2017

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Constructor Time/Gap
1 Sunderland Sam GBR KTM Factory Racing Team KTM 1'47.5
2 Meo Antoine FRA KTM Factory Racing Team KTM +0.6
3 Quintanilla Pablo CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +1.1
4 Walkner Matthias AUT KTM Factory Racing Team KTM +2.7
5 Renet Pierre-Alexandre FRA Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +3.8
6 Stephens Lee AUS KTM +5.2
7 Goncalves Paulo POR Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +5.3
8 Benavides Kevin ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +8.0
9 Al Balooshi Mohammed UAE Ride to Abu Dhabi Team KTM +13.2
10 Melot Benjamin FRA Duust Rally Team KTM +15.2
Location Information

The legendary UAE Desert Challenge, one of the world’s most prestigious international cross country rallies founded by Emirati Motorsport legend, former EMSO President and the new FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem back in 1991, and over the years has seen many of the biggest names in international motorsport tackle the… read more.

Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates - View in Google Maps


2021 Matthias Walkner (KTM)
2019 Sam Sunderland (KTM)
2018 Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna)
2017 Sam Sunderland (KTM)
2016 Toby Price (KTM)
2015 Marc Coma (KTM)
2014 Paulo Gonçalves (Honda)