|Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Team Honda HRC starts to defend FIM WC title|
Paulo Gonçalves, current FIM Cross-Country world champion, starts the championship in Abu Dhabi with the number one emblazoned on the fairings of his Honda CRF450 Rally.
Team Honda HRC waltzed through the mandatory checks today (Friday) 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.
"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," said Team Manager Wolfgang Fischer.
"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."
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.
"So this is the first race and I am really confident," said the actual World Champion Paulo Goncalves on Friday. "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."
Teammates Joan Barreda and Helder Rodrigues are also happy to start in the season. "We are all ready a couple of months after the Dakar 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," said Joan Barreda.
"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," added Helder Rodrigues. "I’ll be happy if everyone finishes the race well."
2014/04/04 | 19:31 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/HRC