Successfully completing the marathon stages of the 2019 Merzouga Rally on his WR450F Rally, Adrien Van Beveren now holds a nearly 23-minute advantage at the top of the provisional overall motorcycles class results. Placing second on today’s stage four, the Yamalube Yamaha Rally Team rider once again navigated superbly, finishing just under four minutes behind the eventual stage winner.

Holding a commanding overall lead heading into the second half of the marathon stage, the fifth and penultimate day of the Merzouga Rally featured a 205.27-kilometre special stage and more challenging navigation. Preparing his WR450F Rally himself at the marathon bivouac, Van Beveren was the first rider into the stage and opened the tracks throughout the day.

Easing his pace a little and focusing astutely on his navigation, the Yamalube Yamaha Rally Team rider nevertheless made a handful of small navigational errors, yet remained at the front of the motorcycle class. Despite only pushing at around 80% of his maximum, Van Beveren yet again went on to ride a near faultless stage. Second fastest to the day’s first check point – and comfortably faster than his closest rival in the overall classification – he then went on to record the second fastest time to the second and final check point.

In finishing as runner-up on stage four Van Beveren holds a sizeable near 23-minute advantage with just one day of competition remaining.

The fifth and closing stage of the 2019 Merzouga Rally will see all competitors compete in the Grand Prix des Dunes – a mass start race into the day’s 40.30-kilometre special stage.

Adrien Van Beveren

Yamalube Yamaha Official Team Rider

“I am very pleased with the way the marathon stages have gone for me, and really enjoyed them. Yesterday everything went well again. More tricky navigation, but importantly I had a great feeling with my bike and to win was fantastic. Being in the marathon bivouac last night was great fun – spending time with other competitors, and some of the riders that gave me great advice when I first started in rally, it was so cool. I arrived there with my bike in perfect condition, so today I focused on doing another good navigation. Opening the stage all day was tough, but again this race is the perfect training for me because I have to be completely focused on my road book, not following any other tracks from other riders. I did make some mistakes and got lost a few times, but I took my time. I was riding more like I would in training, not at 100%. It was a very good stage for me. I feel good, my bike is perfect, so now I look forward to the final dune stage.”

Merzouga Rally 2019

Stage 4 Provisional Classification

1. Ross Branch (BWA), KTM, 3:08:15
2. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 3:32:12 +3:57
3. Alessandro Botturi (ITA), Yamaha, 3:34:22 +6:07
4. Oriol Mena (ESP), Hero, 3:37:13 +8:58
5. Sebastian Buhler (DEU), KTM, 3:43:26 +15:11

Merzouga Rally 2019

Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 4]

1. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 14:33:01
2. Ross Branch (BWA), KTM, 14:55:59 +22:58
3. Oriol Mena (ESP), Hero, 15:03:18 +30:17
4. Joaquim Rodrigues (PRT), Hero, 15:07:19 +34:18
5. Alessandro Botturi (ITA), Yamaha), 15:16:44 +43:43

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

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 

STAGE: 5TH  FINAL STANDINGS: 4TH

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 

STAGE: 3RD  FINAL STANDINGS: 14TH

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 

STAGE: 4TH  FINAL STANDINGS: 3RD

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 

Pos.RiderNationTeamConstructorTime/Gap
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

Pos.RiderNationTeamTime/Gap 
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 

STAGE: DNF

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 

Pos.RiderNationTeamConstructorTime/Gap
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)