(MENAFN -Arab News) DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s cross country rally specialists have been promised an exhilarating test of guile and courage when the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge returns to the world stage for its 24th edition.
After dominating the 2014 Dakar Rally in South America, the all-conquering X-Raid team is expected to top a powerful entry list when the world’s leading drivers and riders take on the spectacular dunes of the UAE’s Western Region of Al Garbia from April 3-10.
The German-based team’s manager, Sven Quandt, will spend the next two weeks finalyzing his plans for the UAE following Nani Roma’s Dakar victory ahead of teammates Stphane Peterhansel and Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah.
The chance to tackle arguably the world’s most impressive rally route, and compete with the best on a big international stage, has been a big attraction for Middle East competitors over the years, and the appeal of the Desert Challenge is as strong as ever.
“Every year, our route planning team covers thousands of kilometers to create the ultimate desert rally experience,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, launching the official countdown to the event today.
“This year, as always, we want to produce stages which set a fair but difficult test of skill, and reward the bravest drivers and riders. No-one has an easy time in the Desert Challenge. No-one wins it without pushing themselves to the limit.
“But the beauty of the event is that local enthusiasts and private entrants from around the region can compete on the same stage alongside the top professional teams, and sometimes beat them. Everyone who goes the distance is left with a great sense of achievement. Nobody who takes part ever forgets the experience.”
Among those who battled their way to the finish last year were Saudi’s Ahmed Al-Shegawi, Ibrahim Al-Muhana and Sulayem hope more challengers from the Kingdom will tackle this year’s event, which follows a spectacular route across towering dunes and desert plains.
Reigning cars champion Roma and team-mates Peterhansel and Al Attiyah have recorded eight Desert Challenge victories between them, and regardless of Quandt’s driver choice on this occasion, he will be looking for victory from one of the MINI All4 Racing crossovers.
Prior to the Desert Challenge, the first two rounds of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies are being run in the forests of northern Russia next month and Italy in March, with seven other events to follow in Qatar, Egypt, Spain, Hungary, Poland, Morocco and Portugal.
After starting in the UAE, the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship will continue with rounds in Qatar, Egypt, Italy, Brazil and Morocco.