Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves grabbed the third stage victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, climbing up one place into second spot in the general rankings. Noteworthy specials too from Barreda – home in fourth – and Brabec in seventh.
The Honda CRF450 RALLY was back in a starring role in the dunes of the Liwa Desert where the third of a five-stage Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge played out. After Joan Barreda’s win yesterday, today it was team-mate Paulo Goncalves’ turn to stamp his authority on a 400 kilometre stage, which included a 272.8 km timed special.
Joan Barreda took advantage of a new rule that allows the first three finishers to choose their starting positions among the first six starters. The Spanish rider set out from sixth place, put pedal to metal and was soon forging ahead of the pack, opening the way for a long stretch of the special stage. The adversaries did finally catch up and Barreda had to content himself with a fourth final place.
Paulo Gonçalves, on the other hand, took full advantage of the day, pushing hard from the start, before going on to take his first triumph so far in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. The win permits him to move up one spot on the overall leaderboard. The Portuguese supremo now lies in second in the general some five minutes off the leader.
Ricky Brabec, for his part, finishes the day with a positive balance sheet. After enduring a dune-filled stage in extreme temperatures hovering around 50 degrees, the American rookie crossed the line in seventh, holding on to his position in the general rankings.
Paulo Goncalves (stage winner, 2nd overall): ”Today was a really good special. I had a great starting position, I won the stage and I’m in second place in the general standings. Tomorrow will be more difficult but there are still two days ahead. I’m pleased because I’m still in the running for the victory. The bike is working perfectly in the hardest conditions of the year so far. We will keep pushing.”
Joan Barreda (4th on stage, 18th overall): ”Today was a great day. It was a pity about the final few kilometres because the rivals managed to catch me up. I was opening the way and pushed hard with a cracking pace. It’s a great test out here in Abu Dhabi and I’m happy with the work that we’ve done today.”
Ricky Brabec (7th on stage, 6th overall): ”After yesterday’s race I started this one in third, so I was towards the front so that took a bit more navigating to do. I knew my team-mates were behind me and I knew they were coming quickly, so I didn’t try and hold them up. I rode my own race today and tried to navigate and learn a little bit more. Now that I’m used to riding the dunes, I’m having fun and not struggling as badly. I’m just letting the bike do what it wants and now I’m getting the hang of it. I can’t wait for the next two days.”
Wolfgang Fischer (Team HRC Team Manager): ”Today was a very good day for the team. Paulo was not only able to win the stage today, but took back a place in the overall standings moving up into second place, five minutes behind Marc Coma and passing Sam Sunderland, which gives him all the instruments to have a good starting-position tomorrow. Joan also started well picking up time on Sam Sunderland today and finishing in a very good position. Also, Ricky had a solid race finishing in seventh which gives him a nice position for tomorrow to make up some more ground. So all in all, technically and tactically it was a good all-round day.”