Can-Am Factory Team’s Jones and Baciuska finish 1st and 2nd in challenger category at Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

– South Racing Can-Am Team’s Hernan Garces comes home in third place in Challenger

The Can-Am Factory Team and the South Racing Can-Am Team claimed a clean sweep of the podium places in the Challenger category at the gruelling Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, round two of the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).

American Austin Jones teamed up with Oriol Mena for the first time and was in the thick of the action from the first of five punishing desert stages through the remote Western Region of the United Arab Emirates. Jones won three stages in his Can-Am Maverick X3 and reached the finish in Abu Dhabi 4min 38sec ahead of his Can-Am Factory Team colleagues Rokas Baciuška and Oriol Vidal.

Baciuška had faired better than his rival at the Dakar Rally in January and the vital W2RC points he amassed in the UAE sees the Lithuanian and his Spanish co-driver take a joint lead in the championship after two rounds of five. Jones and Baciuška were classified in fourth and fifth in the general classification behind three more powerful cars in the Ultimate class.

Jones said: « We came away with a win and I’m really happy about that. A big shout out to Oriol (Mena) stepping in at the last minute and we killed it. We were on it. The team did a great job prepping the car. We came away with three stage wins and the win in the class. It can’t really get a lot better than that. »

The Chilean duo of Hernan Garces and Juan Pablo Latrach entered the event in a South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3. Garces is not registered for the W2RC but he delivered a stunning performance to reach the finish in third place in the Challenger category and over an hour clear of his nearest non-Can-Am rival.

South Racing Can-Am Team’s managing director Scott Abraham said: « This was a great second round of the W2RC Championship for the South Racing Can-Am and Can-Am Factory Team. Once again, we had a clean sweep of the podium and we won three of the five stages.
« It was a dominant performance in Abu Dhabi and a great return to form for Austin Jones with his new co-driver Oriol Mena. The result has also given Rokas the W2RC Championship lead and Oriol (Vidal) going into the next round, Transiberico, in April. It was also an excellent result for Hernan Garces and Juan Pablo Latrach to finish on the podium in the Challenger category. »

The Can-Am Factory Team also entered a Maverick XRS Turbo RR for the Portuguese duo of Joāo Ferreira and Filipe Palmeiro in the SSV category. The duo started strongly but were forced to stop on the second stage to repair a mechanical issue and were unable to continue.

The South Racing Can-Am Team receives valuable support for the race programme from BRP, Rotax, Method Wheels, Tensor Tires, Motul, J.Juan Brake Systems, Oakley and Sparco.

Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – FIA W2RC Challenger (final standings):
1. Austin Jones (USA)/Oriol Mena (ESP) Can-Am Factory Maverick X3, 17hr 10min 50sec
2. Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Can-Am Factory Maverick X3, 17hr 15min 28sec
3. Hernan Garces (CHL)/Juan Pablo Latrach (CHL) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3, 17hr 57min 02sec*
4. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Stéphane Duplé (FRA) Taurus T3 Max, 18hr 58min 43sec
5. Marcelo Tiglia Gastaldi (BRA)/Carlos Sachs (BRA) Taurus T3 Max, 20hr 18min 15sec
6. Annett Quandt (DEU)/Annie Seel (SWE) Yamaha YXZ 1000 RSS, 21hr 38min 16sec*
7. Nicolas Cavigliasso (ARG)/Valentia Pertegarini (ARG) Taurus T3 Max, 39hr 33min 07sec
8. Puck Klaasen (NLD)/Augusto Sanz (ARG) Taurus T3 Max, 53hr 40min 10sec*
9. Pal Lonyai (HUN)/Dmytro Tsyro (UKR) Yamaha YXZ 1000 RSS, 54hr 44min 29sec*
10. Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP)/Pablo Moreno Huete (ESP) Taurus T3 Max, 55hr 33min 31sec*
11. Khalid Al-Jafla (ARE)/Andrei Rudnitski (ANA) Can-Am Maverick X3, 70hr 36min 59sec*
12. Laia Sanz (ESP)/Maurizio Gerini (ITA) Taurus T3 Max, 76hr 06min 58sec*
*denotes NOT registered for W2RC

Neil Perkins,