Two Husqvarna riders have achieved podium success at the first round of the FIM Cross Country Rally World Championship that recently took place in the desert of Abu Dhabi. The Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain participated in the rally with the Husqvarna TE449RR and riders Joan Barreda from Spain and Paulo Gonçalves from Portugal.
During the 2,000-km (1,243-mile) rally, both riders and their bikes had to deal with the scorching temperatures up to 104° F (40° C) as well as the constant challenges of the desert of Abu Dhabi with its soft sand and high dunes. However, at the conclusion of this gruelling event the two riders finished in second and third place in the overall standings, sending a clear signal to their competitors that they will have to keep an eye on the Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain squad in the future.
Joan Barreda showed right from the start of the rally that his intention was to win the 2012 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. After the 185-mile special test on the first day, he trailed the leader by just over three-and-a-half minutes in fourth position. In the second leg, he put in a performance that took him to the lead in the overall standings. From then on it was a battle between Barreda – the extremely promising newcomer of this year’s Dakar Rally – and off-road legend Marc Coma. In the end, Joan finished in a very strong second place less than 10 minutes behind Coma after 1,200 miles of racing.
Paulo Gonçalves, the other rider in the Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain squad, also started very strong by finishing in fifth place on the first leg. On the second day out in the desert he was able to keep this position and to close the gap to the leaders. The fact that at the end of day two, the top five riders were separated by only 94 seconds showed just how tight the fight at the top of the field was.
On day three, Paulo had a crash when he collided with the bike of a competitor who had fallen behind a dune, but he was able to repair the damage quickly and climb up to fourth position in the overall standings. On the penultimate day the Portuguese rider showed exactly why he is called “Speedy Gonçalves” by catching up over 12 minutes to the leaders. This excellent performance elevated him into third position which he defended successfully on the last day.
2012 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
1. Marc Coma (KTM) 20h 33’35
2. Joan Barreda (Husqvarna) 20h 43’08
3. Paulo Gonçalves (Husqvarna) 20h 53’59
4. Ruben Faria (KTM) 20h 56’38
5. Jordi Villdamos (KTM) 21h 01’00