Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi Racing driver and Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner, Shaikh Khalid Bin Faisal Al Qasimi, is gearing up for another bash at the historic Dakar Rally, which will have its 40th outing from January 6-20, 2018, through three countries in South America — Peru, Bolivia and Argentina.
With Xavier Panseri as his co-driver, Shaikh Khalid will be behind the wheel of a Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi run by PH Sport. This is the second time the pair have teamed up, as Panseri co-drove with Shaikh Khalid in Rally Morocco last year.
“Dakar was a completely new experience for me and for the team and even driving the car, which is a buggy-style rather than a four-wheel drive,” said Shaikh Khalid adding that during his debut in the Dakar last year they faced a number of obstacles which hampered their chances.
“On the penultimate day where we could have been at least in the top 10, we had a major problem. We were losing too much time as a result of getting lost. Of course you expect to get lost occasionally but in the last Dakar Rally we lost a lot of time everyday due to navigation,” he said.
This year’s Dakar will feature seven off-road stages made up of sand dunes.
The is rally set over 9,000 kilometres, of which nearly 5,000km will be special stages and over 4,000km of road sections.
In its 40th edition, the rally will take place on the South American continent for the 10th time. The drivers will be reacquainting themselves with the Pacific Ocean coastline and the Peruvian dunes, which the riders and drivers will tackle after having enjoyed several days in the capital, Lima.
The race continues on to Bolivia, where the rest day will take place in the capital city, La Paz. From there the race moves to Argentina, concluding in Cordoba, which will host the finish of the Dakar for the first time.
“I’m starting with a new co-driver Panseri for Dakar 2018. I have experience with him following tests in Rally Morocco last year and I feel he has the potential. I think Xavier has good experience which he can pass on to me and this will be crucial for both of us in the Dakar Rally. It will be a challenge and I am looking forward to it,” said Shaikh Khalid adding that he wanted to compete in Dakar again as the route has been changed from Dakar 2017 where they drove on terrain which was difficult for buggy cars.
“Dakar 2018 will consist of 6-7 days of dunes, especially the first part of the rally, which will be in Peru. I was born in the desert so I have a decent experience driving here which I will try to use to my advantage but the South American dunes are of a different kind as compared to our dunes here in the UAE.
“I will try to read the sands as best I can but I’m used to driving in four-wheel drive vehicles in the desert and the two wheeled vehicles of Dakar require a different approach and driving style,” said Shaikh Khalid whose biggest challenge will be on the narrower routes as the maxi is a big wide car so he might struggle.
“We might lose some time as a result, but at the end of the day it is part of the challenge and we will see how it goes. We will put a good strategy in place for the race because we have a new car, new routes and a new co-driver. But hopefully, we will complete the challenge safely and in a good result.”