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Poland’s Jakub Przygonski (left) is chasing a cars victory with German co-driver Timo Gottschalk. Image Credit: Supplied photo

Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia’s top driver Yazeed Al Rajhi and new FIM world bikes champion Matthias Walkner have set their sights on a maiden victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge when the event marks its 30th anniversary next week.

Partnered by British co-driver Michael Orr in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive, Al Rajhi is aiming for a second triumph in the UAE this year after the pair combined to win the Dubai International Baja back in February.

Austrian KTM star Walkner, who secured this year’s FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship with second place in Morocco last month, hopes to go one better as the 2021 series reaches its conclusion in the UAE.

The Emirates Motorsports Organization Tuesday announced the international entry list for the 2021 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, which gets under way in the UAE capital next Saturday with the drivers’ title in the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies hanging in the balance.

Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah (61pts), who pursues a third Desert Challenge success, will be up against his three remaining title rivals in Al Rajhi (44pts), Argentinian Lucio Alvarez (42pts) and Russian Denis Krotov (37.5pts) in the penultimate World Cup round.

Al Attiyah, accompanied by Mathieu Baumel in a Toyota Hilux, could also come under pressure from Poland’s 2018 World Cup drivers’ champion, Jakub Przygonski, in a MINI John Cooper Works Buggy.

Over the years, Yahya Al Helei has often out performed some of the world’s top drivers in his home event, and the Emirati, remarkably, starts his 30th consecutive Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge alongside Khalid Al Kendi in a Nissan Pick up.

With the final World Cup round remaining in Saudi Arabia next month, two other FIA titles will be in the balance during Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, and rally founder Mohammed Bin Sulayem anticipates another fiercely competitive five days of action on the Al Dhafra desert stages.

“There is always a lot at stake in this event, and the fact that we’ve reached our 30th edition adds to the appeal of the rally,” said Bin Sulayem, President of the Emirates Motorsports Organization and FIA Vice President for Sport. “It’s a memorable occasion for everyone taking part, from the top competitors to the many volunteers who help to make it happen.”

The 30th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge takes place under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region.