Countdown to the new rally season. It’s ten weeks since the Dakar 2015 ended and Joan Barreda is now all fired up and ready to get down to business with Team HRC at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Back to the grind!

Joan Barreda is a man on mission: to dispel the chills and the snow of his Andorra home and get a full-emersion thaw-out in the first round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship with the heat of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Barreda has made a trip back to his folk’s garage in his native Torreblanca, Castellón, to pack up his bags and grab one last training session before remounting the Honda CRF450 RALLY. The high temperatures and dunes of the Emirates will welcome the Team HRC star shortly.

Just a couple of days to go until the start of the 2015 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. After such an intense Dakar, the World Championship now takes us back to the sand and dune-filled rallies where you feel most at home.
Yeah, sure. After a bit of time off, we’re back and have been doing some physical training before returning to the competition. We start up with the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – a quite different rally from the Dakar – with a lot of sand, dunes and quite a bit of navigation. There, it’s important to be in top physical shape so as to keep a steady pace, as well as to maintain the mentality agility needed for having the strength and will to attack and win.

Have you been able to get any rest after the Dakar? How have you been preparing the return to competition?
At the Dakar you get the top-level in every sense, because it’s the greatest test and you have to give it everything. Once it’s over, it’s fundamental to rest both physically and mentally and make sure that you really put the old season well and truly behind you.
We’ve now started the first part of the pre-season. We use the start of the year to train in motocross for a few weeks to increase stamina, speed and have a bit of fun with the motocross bikes while doing some quality training.

Last year it was team-mate Paulo Gonçalves who won this race. What are we to expect this time?
Last year was a great all-round team effort that saw Paulo win the race. But you should bear in mind that these are really tight, sprint races and the difference between the riders is minimal. I think that there will be five or six riders in the running for the victory, including some of the local riders who know the race really well and could be at an advantage.

Will you be aiming at a win in the first race of the 2015 season?
I think that I arrive here in really good shape, especially physically. I’ve had a month and a half of intense training in Andorra, in both the gym and outside with other disciplines such as skiing. This, together with the training on the cross bike, which really works the agility, rhythm and manoeuvrability on the bike, means that I’m arriving in Abu Dhabi in top form for the first race. We come here with a lot of will to win and without pressure. I believe that if we keep our concentration without making any mistakes, we will be in the running for victory in the rally once again.

The first two rallies of the season, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, which you won last year and put you ahead in the championship, are very different from the ones to be disputed in Sardinia, Atacama and Morocco.
Qatar and Abu Dhabi are rallies with a lot of dunes. They are also very heterogeneous. In Abu Dhabi we navigate with a lot of GPS and waypoint eclipse (WPE) with an open arrow. In Qatar, the terrain is different: there is a lot of track and paths that are not marked. It’s rockier and needs navigation using waypoint masqué (WPM) with a closed arrow that only opens at 800 metres from the point, which complicates everything. I think that it’s the most difficult rally of the world championship. We go from a very physically demanding rally without much navigation to another which is more technical with complicated navigation.

Has your season been planned?
Although it hasn’t been confirmed yet, we think that from June we will have the Dakar 2016 bike, which we will have to run in. I probably won’t be doing all the races in the world championship. I’d also like to race in the Baja Aragón, which I missed last year while I was getting over the problem that I had in Sardinia. It’s a race on home soil that I’d like to take part in, as well as the Ruta 40 and the China Grand Rally. They are two very interesting events for this season. We’ll take it as it comes.

Your team-mate Paulo will be fighting for the championship. He finished runner-up last year.
Honda really trusts in the teamwork that we have been doing, especially over the last year. We are on the right path and the aim is to win the Dakar. The whole season is focused on the Dakar. This allows us to prepare well and put in the kilometres, without having to battle at the extremely high pace of the world championship, which means I am able to compete in whatever other rallies I feel like to help develop and work on the bike.
Paulo will be aiming at the world championship and I’ll be trying for the Dakar. It’s a great line of work and we will be fighting to achieve both aims.

We don’t know much about the Dakar 2016 yet, although soon the ASO will announce the first outline of the race.
The Dakar is trying to revamp itself, to change and to explore new territories. We hope that it continues that way and keeps on adding new countries because over the last few years we have been repeating quite a lot. I’d personally like it if we entered Peru, although there are many factors that will be involved in deciding the Dakar route. We’ll know about it in three weeks.

Regarding the bike. Will there be any changes made to the one that you rode in the last Dakar?
The base will be the same as they did a lot of work on the chassis for the last Dakar. There might also be some minor details concerning the engine and weight, but all that is to be defined later.

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)