Husqvarna has made its debut in motorcycle rally racing at the opening round of the Rally Raid World Championship, known as the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Dutchman Frans Verhoeven, who won a Dakar stage in January on a speedbrain BMW, and French Enduro and Rally icon David Frétigné represented Husqvarna in the Arabian desert.
The engine out of the TE 449 Enduro bike and the rally chassis developed by speedbrain proved to be a strong combination in the new TE 449 RR factory bike. Rally participants faced 113-degree F temps along with mixed technical and fast sand tracks, and endless very soft dune sections, with top speeds over 100 mph (160 km/h) during the race through Abu Dhabi’s Liwa Desert.
The highly challenging, arduous sand chase ended with a second place posted by Verhoeven in the final stage. The Dutchman finished in fourth place overall, missing the podium by less than five minutes after five days of racing.
Frétigné had a good comeback following his severe spinal injury sustained last year. After a five-month break the rally veteran is becoming adapted to high-speed rally riding again and is fully motivated to make further progress. He achieved two fourth places as best ‘day’ results, giving him seventh in the final standings.
On the first race day, Verhoeven actually lost about 13 minutes due to a navigation error. A final gap of 17 minutes to winner Marc Coma and 12 minutes to runner-up Helder Rodrigues clearly proves the competitiveness of both the bike and the team. The sandy conditions in Abu Dhabi required a lot from both the riders and engines. In particular the clutches were tested to the extreme. But with no problems encountered whatsoever, the first outing of the new machine provided very positive feedback for Husqvarna.
Final standings after 5 days:
1 COMA-CAMPS Marc, KTM 450, 18:28.00
2 RODRIGUES Helder, YAMAHA 450, 18:33.21
3 PRZYGONSKI Jakub, KTM 450, 18:40.43
4 VERHOEVEN Frans, HUSQVARNA 450, 18:45.01
5 ULLEVALSETER Pal, KTM 450, 18:47.44
6 FARIA Ruben, KTM 450, 18:49.54
7 FRETIGNE David, HUSQVARNA 450, 18:55.50
8 CZACHOR Jacek, KTM 450, 19:37.08
9 DABROWSKI Marek, KTM Open, 19:41.16
10 CECI Paolo, BETA 450, 19:57.42