Monster Energy Honda Team is back on the final podium of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. José Ignacio Cornejo finished third in the inaugural round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship which concluded today at the Yas Marina circuit.

The final stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge saw José Ignacio Cornejo take third place on the race’s final podium. Is the first time in the World Championship podium for the Chilean Monster Energy Honda Team rider, who was able to complete the 214.5-kilometre special error-free and make it back to the Yas Marina circuit in third overall spot after five days and some 1900 kilometres of intense racing in the Emirati desert.

Nacho finished the fifth and final stage of the rally in fourth position, crossing the finish-line less than two minutes behind the runner-up. The Chilean, besides winning two stages of the rally, also made it onto the podium in second place in the junior category. Monster Energy Honda Team brother-in-arms, Argentine Kevin Benavides, finished behind Cornejo, both in the day’s stage – posting fifth – as well as in the overall final standings where he has occupied fourth place. For the rider from Salta it was a triumph of sorts, to be able to finish the race in the top five, while burdened with a recent shoulder dislocation and a fractured rib.

It turned out to be a similar final balance sheet for the Spaniard Joan Barreda, who two weeks prior to leaving for Abu Dhabi broke three ribs and dislocated the left clavicle. In addition, on the second day, his right leg was pierced by the motorcycle’s foot-rest. Despite the woes, Barreda decided to battle on in the race, and after placing second in two stages, finished in third spot on the final day. The rider from Castellón had been sanctioned with a heavy penalty after being unable to conclude the first stage with a mechanical issue. 

Monster Energy Honda Team return to the action again with the second official round of the world championship, the Silk Way Rally, which will take place from 6th to 16th July, on a trek through Russia, Mongolia and China.

Kevin Benavides 


I’m happy to finish because the goal was to reach the end. It was a very hard week physically. It was not easy to ride with a dislocated shoulder and a broken rib. I was at 50%, but I gave 100% of that 50, and it’s very good to be able to finish with a fourth place. Every sacrifice has its reward and we must bear in mind that this championship is very long and we hope it will have a good ending.

Joan Barreda 


I am very satisfied because the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is a very physical rally, generally because of the extreme heat and the dunes that have to be overcome every day. Apart from the injury, it was great to be able to compete again, to get back to race pace and experience the physical aspects and the speed. So it’s been a good start to the season, especially taking into account the circumstances with which we arrived here and the mechanical problem we had on the first day. From there, we were able to draw some positive conclusions which is what we came here for.

José Ignacio Cornejo 


Today was a difficult day, opening the track; I am happy. I opened the track from beginning to end although unfortunately they took back a lot of time from me and I ended up in third position in the general. I am equally happy to get my first podium in the world championship, to go home after having won two stages and having opened the track during two more stages. Certainly this experience will be positive for my future. We are on the right track. I’m happy with my riding, and I’m picking up more and more pace. I want to thank the Monster Energy Honda Team for all the hard work these days, as well as my coach and my family who are at home supporting me. Thank you very much to all.

Stage 5 provisional results 

1SUNDERLAND SamGBRRed Bull KTM Rally Factory TeamKTM2:39’59
2BENAVIDES LucianoARGKTM Factory Racing TeamKTM+3’26
3BARREDA JoanSPAMonster Energy Honda TeamHonda+6’43
4CORNEJO José IgnacioCHIMonster Energy Honda TeamHonda+9’41
5BENAVIDES KevinARGMonster Energy Honda TeamHonda+13’35
6AL BALOOSHI MohammedUAEBalooshi Racing KTM UAEKTM+20’14
7MESHARI JAFFAR MohammedKWTTeam JaffarKTM+20’23
8MARE AaronRSAVendetta Racing UAEKTM+22’18
9BLAIR RyanGBRSRG MotorsportsHusqvarna+24’14
10SHORT AndrewUSARockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory RacingHusqvarna+25’52

Privisional Final Standings

1SUNDERLAND SamGBRRed Bull KTM Rally Factory Team17:46’42
2BENAVIDES LucianoARGKTM Factory Racing Team+8’20
3CORNEJO José IgnacioCHIMonster Energy Honda Team+9’59
4BENAVIDES KevinARGMonster Energy Honda Team+34’51
5SHORT AndrewUSARockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing+1:01’40
6BLAIR RyanGBRSRG Motorsports+1:36’51
7MESHARI JAFFAR MohammedKWTTeam Jaffar+1:37’06
8ACKERMAN MarkRSASRG Motorsports+1:44’31
9AL BALOOSHI MohammedUAEBalooshi Racing KTM UAE+1:45’54
10MARE AaronRSAVendetta Racing UAE+23:27’08
14BARREDA JoanSPAMonster Energy Honda Team+33:16’23

Words and Photos: Honda Racing Corporation / RallyZone – Edoardo Bauer (Copyright)

WR450F Rally mounted Adrien Van Beveren has secured his second stage win of the 2019 Merzouga Rally, topping the results of stage three by close to two-and-a-half minutes. Once again showing himself to be the rider to beat, the Yamalube Yamaha Rally Team rider now holds a 16-minute overall motorcycle class lead with one full day of racing and the final Grand Prix des Dunes remaining.

Following his impressive third place result on stage 2 of the Merzouga Rally, having opened the tracks the entire day, Van Beveren was the third rider to start stage three, departing at 7.31am local time. As the first half of the two-day marathon stage, Van Beveren was well aware that any running repairs at the end of the day would have to be done without the support of his team.

Attacking the day’s special, the Frenchman made up time on the riders that started ahead of him, completing the stage without issues and further extending his overall rally lead.

With event organisers claiming that the penultimate day of the event will be a “major stage full of dunes and difficulties,” the second half of the marathon stage will see competitors return to Erfoud via a 205.27-kilometre special stage.

Merzouga Rally 2019

Stage 3 Provisional Classification

1. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 3:25:31
2. Joaquim Rodrigues (PRT), Hero, 3:27:54 +2:23
3. Oriol Mena (ESP), Hero, 3:28:39 +3:08
4. Alessandro Botturi (ITA), Yamaha, 3:29:04 +3:33
5. Sebastian Buhler (GER), KTM, 3:29:25 +3:54
6. Ross Branch (BWA), KTM, 3:29:31 +4:00

Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 3]

1. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 11:00:49
2. Joaquim Rodrigues (PRT), Hero, 11:16:49 +16:00
3. Oriol Mena (ESP), Hero, 11:26:05 +25:16
4. Jacopo Cerutti (ITA), Husqvarna, 11:26:17 +25:28
5. Ross Branch (BWA), KTM, 11:27:44 +26:55
6. Alessandro Botturi (ITA), Yamaha, 11:42:22 +41:33

Merzouga Rally 2019 – Race Schedule

Prologue / March 31 / Erfoud
Stage 1 / April 1 / Erfoud to Erfoud
Stage 2 / April 2 / Erfoud to Erfoud
Stage 3 / April 3 / Erfoud to Marathon Bivouac

Stage 4 / April 4 / Marathon Bivouac to Erfoud
Stage 5 / April 5 / Extreme GP

Words and Photos: Yamaha Racing

It is a sport the brings out the best and the worst… the best of dirt bike riding talent and the worst that nature can throw at them.

The 2019 Yamaha New Zealand Enduro Championships kicked off near Whangamata two weeks ago and the second round of seven in the series is set for the Kapiti Coast region, in forestry just north of Wellington, this weekend, the demanding terrain sure to be another stern test for the riders and their motorcycles.

The venue for Saturday’s event, on steep forest land off Moonshine Road, will be signposted from State Highway 58 (Haywards Hill Road) and it’s probably hard to believe that such rugged terrain can be found so close to New Zealand’s Capital city.

Hosted by the Kapi-Mana Motorcycle Club, the course is mostly clay-based forestry tracks with the premier AA course riders expected to complete three loops, each of just under 50km in length and comprising five terrain tests. The lesser A course riders have been set two loops of just under 50km and comprising four terrain tests. The Intro Trail riders will be doing two shorter loops with two terrain tests (not timed).

Helensville’s Tom Buxton dominated the day on the AA course at Whangamata, the 20-year-old finishing ahead of Cambridge’s Dylan Yearbury, Thames rider Jason Davis, the former national enduro champion back from retirement, with another former champion, Glen Eden’s Chris Birch, finishing fourth and Whanganui’s Seth Reardon rounding out the top five.

Other riders to run among the leaders at Whangamata included Cambridge’s Beau Taylor, Rotorua’s Bradley Lauder, Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman, Cambridge’s Ashton Grey and Wainuiomata’s eight-time national moto trials champion and now enduro expert Jake Whitaker. 

Such is the nature of this most demanding of sports that any of these individuals could be expected to move up and challenge Buxton this weekend, with rider stamina, strength, skill, bike reliability, the weather and terrain, plus the unknown element of luck all sure to play a part.

Leading riders on the A course at Whangamata were Tokoroa’s Jake Wightman, Thames rider Natasha Cairns, Te Hauautu’s Elliot ‘Superman’ Kent, Masterton’s Philip Bly and Putaruru’s Phil Skinner. 

“The track at Moonshine is in a really good condition,” said Motorcycling New Zealand enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson. “We have put in a few interesting bits for the AA guys and it will be a challenge. It will be a little bit more moderate for the A course riders. I think a bit of moisture is expected leading into the event, but rain will be good to keep the dust down. It is shaping up to be a really good series. It’s early days yet, but it’s certainly close at the top and anyone’s championship to win at this stage.”

The Yamaha and Mitas tyres-sponsored series will next head to the South Waikato region for round three on Saturday, April 20.

The 2019 Yamaha NZ Enduro Championships are supported by Mitas tyres, Macaulay Metals, Best Build Construction, Silver-bullet, Kiwi Rider magazine, Dirt Rider Downunder magazine and Moto Events NZ.

2019 Yamaha NZ Enduro Champs calendar:

Round 1 – Saturday, March 16 – Thames
Round 2 – Saturday, April 6 – Kapiti 
Round 3 – Saturday, April 20 – South Waikato
Round 4 – Sunday, June 9 – Martinborough
Round 5 – Saturday, June 29 – Bideford, Masterton
Round 6 – Friday, July 19 – Hokitika, Westland
Round 7 – Saturday, July 20 – Hokitika, Westland

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Cambridge’s Ashton Grey (Yamaha YZ450FX), one of many possible top-10 contenders this weekend.

Good positions for Nacho Cornejo in third, and Kevin Benavides, fifth, at the end of the first day of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Joan Barreda will set off from behind tomorrow after suffering a mechanical setback today.

Prudence prevails on returning, two months after finish the Dakar Rally, to a competition as tough as the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with its treacherous cut dunes capable of ruining a rally on day one. Nevertheless, today Chilean rider Nacho Cornejo finished top of the Monster Energy Honda Team riders, posting third position on the day.

It was a scorching day, but also one with plenty of wind, on a route which ended in midst of the Liwa desert. The first day of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge featured 262 kilometres of special stage out of a 329-kilometre total. As usual the first round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship served up a fair dosage of navigation and dunes as competitors left the Yas Marina circuit behind to enter into the ante-chamber of the desert – a sea of dunes which dominates the Liwa region in the south of the country.

José Ignacio Cornejo set off at a cracking pace over the early stretches of the race and made it safely back to the bivouac in Qsar Al Sarab, on an error-free ride, to finish on the day’s podium, 6’46” adrift of the stage winner. Argentine team-mate Kevin Benavides, went in pursuit of the riders who preceded him, but after getting bogged down in a dune, lost the trail that would have allowed him to reach his rivals and would have permitted easier progress without such a physical drain. Benavides ended in fifth place on the day.

The third rider on the team, Spaniard Joan Barreda suffered a mechanical setback at kilometre 16 of the special whilst opening the track. Barreda, the third competitor to start the special, was unable to repair the bike on the course in the intense heat and wind and was forced to retire from the stage. However, Joan remains confident that he will be able to repair and restart in tomorrow’s stage.

The second stage will likewise play out in the Liwa region, with a total of 370 kilometres, of which 222 km are against the clock.

Kevin Benavides 

STAGE: 5th, OVERALL: 5th

This was the first contact with the desert of truth. As soon as I started I got stuck in a dune and had to make a huge effort to get out. Then I adapted to the race but with some pain in the shoulder. The desert was complicated with wind and soft dunes. I took things as easily and calmly as I could, looking for a reasonable pace that would allow me to finish. I am not at 100%, but about 50%, but I will try to give 100% of that 50. We will try to take things one step at a time because there are still many days left to run.

Joan Barreda 


I’m fine, although a bit upset because I think that, without having pushed hard, I had a good pace. I had overtaken two riders and was opening the track, when at kilometre 16 I was unable to continue. I tried hard but it was just impossible. We are going to try to repair the bike and my intention is to continue in the race, so I am going to prepare the roadbook for tomorrow.

José Ignacio Cornejo 

STAGE: 3rd, OVERALL: 3rd

Today was a deceptive day with a lot of wind that raised the sand and it was difficult to guess what the dunes would be like. It was cloudy, but it was very hot with areas where it felt quite hot. It was not a bad day. I hope to improve the pace in the next stages.

Stage 1  Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2019

Provisional results Stage 1 

1SUNDERLAND SamGBRRed Bull KTM Rally Factory TeamKTM3:40’41
2SHORT AndrewUSARockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory RacingHusqvarna+6’09
3CORNEJO José IgnacioCHIMonster Energy Honda TeamHonda+6’46
4BENAVIDES LucianoARGKTM Factory Racing TeamKTM+9’07
5BENAVIDES KevinARGMonster Energy Honda TeamHonda+14’27
6ACKERMAN MarkRSASRG MotorsportsHusqvarna+40’31
7BLAIR RyanGBRSRG MotorsportsHusqvarna+40’49
8AL BALOOSHI MohammedUAEBalooshi Racing KTM UAEKTM+42’49
9MCBRIDE DavidGBRVendetta Racing UAEKTM+1:01’06
10MESHARI JAFFAR MohammedKWTTeam JaffarKTM+1:04’15
23BARREDA JoanSPAMonster Energy Honda TeamHonda

Words: Honda Racing Corporation, Photos: RallyZone – Edoardo Bauer (Copyright)

Tim Gajser showed his much-improved sand riding skills at Valkenswaard, going seven-two for third overall in what was his third podium overall in a row. The CRF450RW rider had second gate pick and with two good starts, he was in a great position to challenge for wins. However, a mistake in the first race whilst in third place cost him any chance of that, as he had to regroup and pass a number of riders to get back to seventh place. In race two, he was once again in the hunt for the lead, tracking Antonio Cairoli for the entire moto, but he was just unable to find his way past the Italian.

In what was his home GP, Brian Bogers had his best result of the season, with a 12th place in the first moto. The Dutch rider felt comfortable all weekend in the sandy conditions and it showed as he came so close to breaking into the top 10. Unfortunately a bike issue in the second moto, caused by a collision with another rider, meant that Bogers wasn’t able to improve upon that result as he had to pull out of the race. It was a disappointing end, but still a move in the right direction for #189 and he now heads to Italy with a boost in confidence that the top guys are within reach.

The picturesque Pietramurata track is the venue next weekend for the MXGP of Trentino, where a hard-pack, stony surface awaits Team HRC for the fourth round of the 2019 motocross world championships.

Tim Gajser  243

I’m quite happy to finish on the podium again. I’m just a little bit disappointed with the first race. I made a mistake and finished seventh, but I’m trying to learn as much as possible from these mistakes so I don’t make them in the future. The second race was good though. My speed was good, my start was good. We were really close to the front and the pace was high so overall I’m quite happy and I’m really looking forward to next weekend in Arco di Trento. A huge thanks to everyone in the team, they did an amazing job with the bike and I felt comfortable on it in both the motos.

Brian Bogers  189

The first race went pretty well. I had an okay start, around 11th and I saw that on the pit board so I really tried to push to get inside the top 10. Maybe I pushed too hard to make that happen, and I ended up riding too tight and I couldn’t push anymore. I finished 12th and I was very happy with that, and it was a nice to see my work paying off. In the second race, my start wasn’t so good and I got hit by another rider but I still managed to get up to 14th place. Unfortunately though, the impact with the other rider caused some damage to the bike and I wasn’t able to finish the race. It’s a shame but this is motocross and I must put it behind me and move onto Trentino next weekend.

Marcus Pereira de Freitas

HRC General Manager – MXGP

Overall it was another positive weekend for both Tim and Brian. Of course it would have been great if he could have just made the pass in the second moto, but it was still Tim’s best results here and a good sign that his winter training has worked and that he has improved on the sand. Unfortunately a collision with another rider issue meant Brian’s bike couldn’t finish the second moto, but it was good to see him fighting around the top 10 in the first race and it is a definite step in the right direction. We now have a week to prepare for Italy, in what should be a great event for Team HRC.

Rider Overall Standings

1CAIROLI Antonio222ITA147Red Bull KTM Factory RacingKTM
2GAJSER Tim243SLO125Team HRC – MXGPHonda
3DESALLE Clement25BEL103Monster Energy Kawasaki RacingKawasaki
4VAN HOREBEEK Jeremy89BEL102Honda SR MotoblouzHonda
5PAULIN Gautier21FRA102Wilvo Yamaha MXGPYamaha
6JASIKONIS Arminas27LTU92Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory RacingHusqvarna
7SEEWER Jeremy91SWI78Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP TeamYamaha
9LIEBER Julien33BEL62Monster Energy Kawasaki RacingKawasaki
10ANSTIE Max99GBR62Standing Construct KTMKTM
11JONASS Pauls41LAT57Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory RacingHusqvarna
12COLDENHOFF Glenn259NDL44Standing Construct KTMKTM
13SEARLE Tommy100GBR41Bike It DRT KawasakiKawasaki
14TIXIER Jordi911FRA36Team VHR KTM RacingKTM
15MONTICELLI Ivo128ITA35iFly JK RacingYamaha
16TONUS Arnaud4SWI35Wilvo Yamaha MXGPYamaha
17LUPINO Alessandro77ITA34Gebben V Venrooy KawasakiKawasaki
18LEOK Tanel7EST24A1M HusqvarnaHusqvarna
19FEBVRE Romain461FRA20Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP TeamYamaha
20BOGERS Brian189NDL18Team HRC – MXGPHonda
21BUTRON Jose17SPA11JD Gunnex KTM Racing TeamKTM
22KULLAS Harri151FIN10Wildcard RiderHusqvarna
23GOLE Anton297SWE9iFly JK RacingYamaha
24FERRIS Dean111AUS6Wilvo Nestaan Husqvarna Factory RacingHusqvarna
25PETROV Petar152BUL4Team Honda Red MotoHonda
26POLI Joaquin179ARG3Wildcard RiderHonda
27LUZZARDI Juan Pablo171ARG1Wildcard RiderKTM
28SALAZAR Jetro220ECU1Wildcard RiderHonda

Words and Photos: Honda Racing Corporation