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Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Cornejo fights hard through the desert as Van Beveren takes Merzouga honours

Apr 082019

Rally competition littered the international landscape last week with all the major factory teams and Dakar athletes navigating their way across deserts in Abu Dhabi and Morocco and there were some standout achievements from the stars of the Monster Energy collective. Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren was the protagonist of the tenth Merzouga Rally in north Africa, winning three stages, and Monster Energy HRC’s Jose Ignacio Cornejo made the final step of the podium in the first round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship.

‘Nacho’ carried the flag for the might of the Honda crew with teammates Kevin Benavides and Joan Barreda ailing through training injuries and a spate of fractured ribs and sore shoulders.

The Chilean barely eased off the throttle through the 1300km course in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and claimed two outright victories by ploughing across some demanding hours and sections in the sand.

“I’m 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,” JIC said. “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.”


Benavides and Barreda – two of the marquee names in Dakar competition - also persisted with the route to maximise the training and testing opportunity despite their recently acquired physical woes. Honda continues to chase KTM but the evolution of Cornejo has been one of the most positive aspects of their work and development since preparation for the 2019 Dakar began last summer.

Further west and another of the Dakar elite, Adrien Van Beveren, was mastering the diversity of the Merzouga; a tough and worthy alternative competition to the Abu Dhabi fixture. The Frenchman claimed three wins and built a margin of almost thirty minutes over his nearest rival throughout the five days. “I've had a great feeling with my bike this week and I have to say a huge thanks to all the team, who have worked so hard to support me,” the Frenchman buzzed. “The Merzouga Rally was all about improving. Improving my navigational skills and generally starting our preparations ahead of Dakar 2020. I absolutely feel that we did that. The navigation here is very tricky, so to be opening the tracks as much as I did, that gives me a lot of confidence. This is a great team result. Next, we have the Silk Way Rally, but before then there's more testing and training to do. We keep working…"