Monster Energy Honda Rally Team’s Dakar-winner Ricky Brabec will return the World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) to challenge Hero Motosports‘ Ross Branch this week at the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid of Portugal.

After winning the Dakar Rally back in January, the Monster Energy Honda Rally Team sat out the following W2RC round Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, round two of the season.

Their absence allowed Hero Motosports to grab the headlines and it is second-placed Dakar finisher Ross Branch who heads the FIM standings, despite his teammate Aaron mare winning the ADDC, as the series cranks up for round three in Portugal this week.

Conditions will be quite different for the podium finishers as they reunite on the stoney, hard-pack European dirt after so many thousands of kilometres of sand dunes in Saudi.


Second at Dakar and the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Hero rider Ross Branch sits atop the general classification with 50 points on the board. In Portugal, the Kalahari Ferrari will find the Monster Energy Honda squadron that surrounded him during the two weeks of Dakar back for more.

Despite missing round two, Ricky Brabec is only 12 points behind Branch in the standings and will be flanked by four teammates in the HRC camp, three of whom have pedigree on the Iberian peninsula.

Pablo Quintanilla won the Andalucía Rally in 2021, Adrien Van Beveren won the W2RC season finale in Andalusia in 2022, plus local boy and newest recruit Tosha Schareina will have an advantage on familiar terrain to his native Spain.

Only Skyler Howes, arrives with a disadvantage having failed to finish in Dakar, the second American is aiming for his first result with the Red Armada.

It was half expected Hero MotoSports would arrive with a new recruit this week but the entry list for the Rally of Portugal contains no mention of Nacho Cornejo and will have just two riders to defend its lead in the manufacturers' classification against the five Hondas. Sebastian Buhler, who has lived much of his life in Portugal, will be back after his crash on the Dakar, alongside Branch. The Indian team has 75 points to Honda’s 62.

Rally2, the category sees Jean-Loup Lepan as leader after two rounds, thanks to his consistency matching Branch in RallyGP. Third W2RC Rally2 rider in Yanbu and runner-up in Abu Dhabi, the Frenchman is on 44 points and just six points ahead of compatriot Romain Dumontier, the category's reigning number one, who scored 38 points on the Dakar with Konrad Dabrowski third in the championship with 36 points.

Bradley Cox, who finished between Dumontier and Lepan on the Dakar, has 30 points. Jan Brabec is fifth with 25 points, Mathieu Dovèze is seventh with 17 points…it’s close.


Portugal will be the first round of the Rally3 calendar which, like last year, will be contested over the final three rounds of the season. Nine riders will be competing on enduro bikes fitted with larger fuel tanks and rally-raid-specific navigation instrumentation. Otherwise they’re pretty standard and in the tight, stony tracks of Portugal, more nimble bikes could be an advantage across this five stage rally.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid schedule:

30–31 March: opening of the bivouac

April 1: administrative scrutineering and technical pre-scrutineering

April 2: administrative scrutineering and technical pre-scrutineering, general and stage 1 briefing, press conference start ceremony

April 3: prologue in Grândola (5 km)

starting order selection ceremony

stage 1 part 1 (SS: 100km)

stage 1 part 2 (SS: 3 km)

April 4: stage 2 (SS: 220 km)

April 5: stage 3 (SS: 282 km)

April 6: stage 4 (SS: 270km)

April 7: stage 5 (SS: 133 km), closing press conference, prize-giving ceremony


Photo Credit: A.S.O. | DPPI