Paulo Gonçalves, current world champion in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies, starts the championship in Abu Dhabi with the number one emblazoned on the fairings of his Honda CRF450 RALLY.
Team HRC waltzed through the mandatory checks today ahead of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge which gets underway tomorrow at the Yas Marina circuit with a short Super Special that will decide the starting order in the first of five stages of the rally.

Once the Super Special is out of the way on Saturday, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge really begins with the first of five stages being disputed on Sunday 6th April in the Liwa desert. This first looks to be one of the most difficult in the championship calendar, with the greater part taking place in the dunes, with the further difficulties of both a tough ride and tricky navigation. The total ride takes in some 2006 kilometres of race, of which 65% is against the clock.

Team HRC starts the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with three riders: Paulo Gonçalves, Joan Barreda and Hélder Rodrigues, and the big challenge will be to keep the number one displayed on the bike.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will be broadcast by Eurosport International this weekend at 22:45 hrs.

Private: Wolfgang Fischer

Team HRC Team Manager

"We are in Abu Dhabi, the first race of the 2014 world championship with a new team set-up and with a world champion from last year Paulo Gonçalves. Of course, we will try our best to keep up the level from last year and defend his world championship. It will be a very long championship and the first race will be a very tough one here in the desert of Abu Dhabi, but we are well prepared. The team is motivated and everybody is working well together, so we should be able to bring home a nice result from this race."

Paulo Goncalves

"So this is the first race and I am really confident. I finished on the podium three years ago, and second last year, so perhaps it’s the moment to win here and I hope we do it. Sure, I’ll be fighting with all the other good riders, and I hope in the end we achieve our goal which is to win the race and try and keep the number one with us."

Joan Barreda

"So here we are one more year in Abu Dhabi, in the first race of the world championship. We are all ready a couple of months after the Dakar and we are here with the Team HRC and we’ll try and do a good job. We’ll have to push with Paulo and Helder to try to win this rally and we’ll be doing our best to take victory in this race."

Helder Rodrigues

"I’m very happy to be in Abu Dhabi again for the first race of the world championship. We are starting with a new set-up and everything is looking very promising and professional. The target in this race is to do the best we possibly can, and be fighting for the team, as well as getting a result for me personally. I’ll be happy if everyone finishes the race well."

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)