Monster Energy off-roaders descent on Portugal for Round 3 of the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship

Published On: 4/2/2024

After missing the second WRRC round, Monster Energy/Team Honda returns to action in Portugal; Ross Branch leads Monster-fueled Hero & overall points chase.

The global standard for off-road motorcycle racing – FIM’s World Rally-Raid Championship – fires back up this week with Round 3 of the series, the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid, held in Portugal, with a quick rip into Spain.

Monster Energy, whose Honda and Hero rally teams dominated the first two WRRC rounds – Dakar (1st place Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy/Honda) and Abu Dhabi (1st place Aaron Mare, Hero Rally, fueled by Monster Energy) – are back in (nearly) full force for the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid.

Opening with Monster Energy/Honda and their dominant, Dakar dominating CRF 450 Rally bike, the team of four racers – Adrien Van Beveren, Pablo Quintanilla, Skyler Howes and Tosha Schareina - are all up for the 5-stage + Prologue challenge that begins Wednesday, April 3, in Grandola, Portugal.


AVB: “Yeah, for the Portugal, I’m really happy to be here. It’s been a while since Dakar. Feels like yesterday, but it’s already two months ago. I’ve been racing (Argentina), keeping the feeling of riding, which is good. I love Portugal, love the country and culture, the people. The food. And there are a lot of motorsports fanatics, which is cool. I also like the terrain a lot. I won two years ago, in Spain, quite close to here. It’s a different kind of rally. It’s not technical, but we’ll get to race a lot of twisty tracks, so more control in the tight turns – not like the desert rally where you can cruise around with a lot of speed, long turns. In Portugal, you need to turn fast, to brake at a good time, to accelerate early and control the slide – because it’s going to be slippery. It’s been raining all week. Riding and training in the mud. I like it. I grew up on the water puddles and the mud. I enjoy it to be honest. I’m really happy. Feel confident and the bike is really good. Kept the Dakar setup because it’s really, really good.”

Quintanilla: “After a few weeks off we start racing here in Portugal. Honestly? We think this race will be very different than the other ones. Here, we don’t have a desert. It’s more kind of piste riding. And also, it’s been raining a lot. So for sure this race will be a lot different than the other ones. We’re hoping that we don’t have any change of the race (venues, course waypoints, etc.). In the end we’re happy to be racing and looking forward to a fun race and different race here in Portugal.”

Howes: “It’s been raining, nonstop, torrential downpours. The terrain is slippery, muddy, and the water crossings are super, super deep. So this will be a very exciting race with just the terrain. I think the navigation won’t be so difficult. Usually the European rallies are more or less straightforward with the navigation. Not a lot of relying on the road book for this one. But with the weather, it’s going to change things a lot with the water crossings, big puddles and the mud. Things will be really tricky and it’s quite a bit different than what I grew up riding in – dry, dusty desert. So this will be a challenge out here. I’ve only raced in Europe a couple times. I did the Six Days (International Six Days Event, aka “ISDE”) and the Andalusia Rally. Haven’t spent much time over here, so this is nice to get out of the ordinary and expand my skill set and knowledge. Looking forward to what this race will bring.”

Schareina: “This is my first rally race after my injury in Dakar. And this is also my first on the new bike (CRF 450 Rally). I’ve now been in the seat for a week and it’s still very new for me. But I’m happy. It has rained a lot here in Portugal and I think it will be a very wet race. And I’m looking forward for it starting. Let’s go!”


Two racers missing from the Monster Energy/Honda program for the Portugal WRRC are Dakar champion Brabec, and Jose “Nacho” Cornejo. For Brabec, a schedule conflict would keep the American great from his second-straight WRRC start, while Cornejo, who recently left the Monster Energy/Honda rally team, has yet to announce who he will race for the remainder of the 2024 competition season.

Said Brabec from the U.S.: “Unfortunately, I don’t be at the third round of the World Rally-Raid Championship. I wish all the best the best of luck. So far I’ve seen the boys putting in the work in the rain, which has been nonstop. So I don’t feel like I’m missing much (laughter). Just kidding! I wish I was there with everyone.”

Hero Motosports, fueled by Monster Energy, arrives at Portugal featuring the overall WRRC motorcycle division points leader, Ross Branch, along with teammate Sebastian Buhler.

The hard-charging Branch, who has a 12 point lead over WRRC 2nd place Brabec and 25 point lead over 3rd place overall Mare – both of whom are not racing Portugal – enjoys a 26 point lead over 4th place Van Beveren.

Branch: “I’m over the moon for Portugal. Such a different type of rally. Obviously, we’re used to the wide open desert style of racing, and now we’re going into the tight, slippery tracks of Portugal. Super excited and happy to be back with the Monster/Hero rally family and really looking forward to racing Portugal.”

When asked of the wet weather as of late in Portugal, and how that’ll effect the race, Branch said: “At the end of the day it effects everybody the same. It’ll be great rally. Looking forward to seeing spectators out on the route, having fun. Also, there’s a little bit more pressure heading into Portugal as the overall championship leader, but that’s where I want to be and, hopefully, we come out of Portugal just the same as how we went in!”

Added Buhler: “The Portugal race for me is like a home race because I live in Portugal since I was three months old. It’s in the region where I live, so I’m really happy to have a World Championship race there. I’m looking forward to the course. I will know some of the roads, but I’m not sure if that is good or not because, yeah, sometimes I want to go one direction – but the race goes the other (laughter). I’m looking forward to it and ready to fight for a good position.”

Up next… Wednesday, April 3rd, starts with the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid Prologue at 8:30 a.m. in Grandola, then rolls right into Stage 1 at 12:30 p.m., running through Santiago do Cacem, before finishing back at the bivouac in Grandola. For more info on WRRC, link to: