The action returns once more as we bid farewell to silly season. It will be sand, dunes and competition galore as the first race of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship – the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – fires up this weekend and Team HRC will be right there in the fray.

Team HRC have now put the Dakar Rally escapade behind them and this weekend it will be all sights set on the next adventure, as the Emirate of Abu Dhabi looms on the horizon, signalling the first date of a new world championship.

Paulo Gonçalves holds particularly fond memories of the event, having had his name and that of Honda etched into the winners list for the first time in last year’s edition.

Likewise, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will serve as a crucial test to scout for promising new talent who might one day make up the Team HRC ranks. The squad will thus line up stalwarts Paulo Gonçalves and Joan Barreda alongside youngster Ricky Brabec, who gets to savour the Honda CRF450 RALLY for the first time. Team HRC has signed up Brabec for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge to weigh up whether the American could slot into the outfit at a future date. Last year Ricky Brabec triumphed in the AMA Hare & Hound 2014 Championship, in addition to winning the San Felipe 250, Baja 500 and Baja 1000.

The rally will consist of a short Super Special on the afternoon of Saturday March 28, to be followed by five stages out in the Liwa desert to the south of the country’s capital, made up mainly of lengthy stretches of dunes. In total, 2,091.78 kilometres and, of these, 1,306.27 km special stage.

Private: Martino Bianchi

Team HRC General Manager

It is good to be at the race again two months after the end of the Dakar . It was a good period of repose in order to prepare the new season and make a few adjustments to the new team format. The Cross-Countries Rally World Championship races are the best way to prepare the team for the next Dakar. Also, our target here is to defend Paulo’s win last year in Abu Dhabi and Barreda’s in Qatar, where we are going to race in a few weeks. It is also a great chance to test new possibilities for team members, and as Honda is always keen to look for promising young riders, we will give the chance to let 23-year-old Ricky Brabec participate here on a HRC factory bike. I wish the team all the best. Enjoy the race and have fun, as this is one of the most enjoyable rallies of the year!

Private: Wolfgang Fischer

Team HRC Team Manager

Team HRC is ready to compete in the first round of the FIM Cross-Countries Rally World Championship of 2015 at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. After a well-deserved break after the Dakar Rally, we’ve got our energy back and the riders have undergone an intensive physical training and are keen to go at the next race and show their performance. Paolo Goncalves, who was the winner of last year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and runner-up in the world championship is here to try and defend his title, with the proven assistance of his team-mate Joan Barreda, who will be hoping to get a better result after his bad luck in the Dakar. Joining the two guys is a new face in the team, a young guy from the USA, Ricky Brabec who will be here to put his talent for rally on display and get some support for the team from the younger generation. All in all, everything went well in the preparations and we are looking forward to administrative checks and the first stage in two days.

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)