2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Wrist injury sidelines Michael Docherty
With World Rally-Raid Championship Rally2 points leader Romain Dumontier electing to sit out this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Michael Docherty had hoped to seize the opportunity after finishing third in class at the Dakar Rally. Unfortunately for Docherty, a lingering wrist injury from Dakar will force him to miss the race as well.
“It pains me to say but I won’t be racing Abu Dhabi Dessert challenge due to my wrist injury from Dakar, but will be getting it fixed and will be back to racing soon,” wrote Docherty on Tuesday. “Thank you again to everyone in my corner and all the supporters.”
Docherty hurt his wrist after crashing seventy kilometres into the Dakar Rally’s third stage, with which he continued to race despite not being able to push himself as hard as he would when healthy. Despite the hampered performance, he was still able to score three more Rally2 stage wins and ended his Dakar début with four (Stages #2, #8, #10, #13) total plus the Prologue. He finished third in class behind Dumontier and Paolo Lucci.
The second half of the Rally saw him step up his game to the point where he was competing alongside the top bikes in the premier RallyGP category. This was highlighted by a third-place overall in Stage #10 and a runner-up three legs later, the latter of which saw him briefly lead at the finish before eventual Dakar bike champion Kevin Benavides edged him out by twenty-seven seconds via time credit for helping his downed team-mate Matthias Walkner. Both runs were the best for a Rally2 rider since Mason Klein notched a third in Stage #3 of 2022.
Although Docherty and Dumontier are both unavailable for Abu Dhabi, they can drop their worst finish or a skipped round from their championship points total. Still, Lucci, Jean-Loup Lepan, and Toni Mulec hope to capitalise on their absences as will those who did not race Dakar like Konrad Dąbrowski. Dumontier left Dakar with thirty-eight points, an eight-point advantage over Lucci and fourteen on Docherty; Lepan has twenty points while Lepan, the next best rider racing Abu Dhabi, is seventh with fourteen. Andrei Cristian Danila and Ionuț Florea are also W2RC-eligible Rally2 riders making their débuts at Abu Dhabi, and there are thirty other entries in the class not competing for points.
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge begins on 25 February.