The Monster Energy Can-Am Team enjoyed a sensational team performance at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the punishing five-day second round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
American Casey Currie and Brazilian Reinaldo Varela dominated the T3 category and became embroiled in an epic duel for supremacy in their Monster Energy Can-Am Maverick X3s. They eventually reached the finish in fourth and fifth in the overall classification and well clear of their rivals in the T3 category.
Currie led for four of the five days and eventually reached the finish podium at the Yas Marina race circuit in Abu Dhabi with a winning margin of 72 seconds, but Varela – the winner of the opening round in Qatar in February – won two of the specials and led by 43 seconds after the penultimate stage.
The contest started well for Currie and his French co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter. They carded the fastest time on the opening selective section of 261.97km that was held in a sandstorm, where strong winds reduced visibility on the route through the first sand dunes between Abu Dhabi and the bivouac in Liwa.
The American took a lead of 68 seconds into the first of the loop stages through the towering sand dunes in the UAE’s Empty Quarter. But Varela and fellow Brazilian Gustavo Gugelmin hit back strongly with the fastest time on that 222.80km special and reduced Currie’s overall lead to just nine seconds.
Currie managed to take advantage of his favourable starting position behind his teammate to set another quickest time on the second dune loop of 297.97km, despite punishing heat and unforgiving sand, and he reached the bivouac with an increased advantage of 70 seconds.
Once again, starting positions came to the fore on the fourth stage and the last of the Liwa loop sections of 286.10km and Varela hit back strongly to claim the fastest time by 1min 53sec and claim a 43-second outright lead.
It was all to play for on the shorter final selective section of 214.47km and Currie delivered the coup de grace with the fastest time on the run back to Abu Dhabi to claim a narrow win by the margin of 72 seconds. Varela’s consolation was maintaining his outright lead in the FIA World Cup’s T3 category.
Varela said: “It was a tough day and Casey caught us on the 160km mark and we battled throughout to keep in front of him. It has been an incredibly exciting battle with these guys over the past five days and 2,000km of dunes and desert.”
Scott Abraham of the Monster Energy Can-Am Team said: “This was a dominant race for the team. Casey and Reinaldo delivered a heated battle throughout the event. It shows the pace of the two drivers to finish the race with such a close gap.
“A big thanks to all the mechanics for keeping the Mavericks in perfect condition to enable the drivers to race like they raced. Monster Energy Can-Am showed again that it continues to build upon its reputation from the Dakar. This is now the second FIA Cross-Country victory for the car and we are looking forward to Kazakhstan at the end of May.”
The Monster Energy Can-Am duo were the only drivers to finish the event in the T3 category without incurring major time penalties and they had a massive lead over the third-placed Russian Fedor Vorobyev and the rest of the chasing pack.
2019 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – provisional results (@13.30hrs)
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Andrea Peterhansel (DEU) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 18hrs 03min 45sec
2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Xavier Panseri (RA) Peugeot 3008 DKR 18hrs 12min 33sec
3. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 18hrs 50min 01sec
4. Cassie Currie (USA)/Laurent Lichtleuchter (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (1st T3) 19hrs 43min 18sec
5. Reinaldo Varela (BRA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (2nd T3) 19hrs 44min 30sec
6. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) BMW X3 CC 19hrs 44min 44sec
7. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Viktor Chytka (CZE) Ford Raptor RS Cross-Country 19hrs 56min 05sec