Dubai: The UAE’s Shaikh Khalid Al Qasimi will be aiming for a second successive Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge triumph, in partnership with French co-driver Xavier Panseri, in their Peugeot Abu Dhabi Racing Team 3008 DKR. The 28th edition of the Rally takes place from March 24-29,
While a first-leg mechanical problem ruined his hopes of victory in last weekend’s Dubai International Baja, round two of the FIA World Cup series, Shaikh Khalid bounced back in great style the following day to win the second leg.
Among his biggest rivals in Abu Dhabi will be the winners in Dubai, Poland’s Jakub Przygonski with Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul in a Mini John Cooper.
The Challenge, one of the world’s top cross country rallies, will be held under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dafrah Region, it was announced.
“We are indebted to Shaikh Hamdan for his continued support and encouragement for the Desert Challenge, without which the event would not be possible,” said Mohammad Bin Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers, and FIA Vice President for sport.
Starring in a powerful cars line-up will be Russia’s two-times Desert Challenge winners Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov in the Mini they took to second place last weekend, and Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Hamed Seaidan with Russian co-driver Aleksei Kuzmich, third in Dubai in a Toyota Hilux.
Relishing another opportunity to test himself against the best riders in the world, Emirati Mohammed Al Balooshi returns to action in great spirits following his Dubai International Baja bikes triumph.
The Desert Challenge will be based at Yas Marina Circuit, and competitors start arriving at the Rally HQ on March 22 for official documentation and scrutineering of all vehicles.
The fist competitive action sees the cars, buggies, bikes and quads tackling an exciting super special spectator stage on the Grand Prix circuit at 3pm on March 24 before heading out into the Al Dafrah Region the next morning for five dramatic desert stages.
For five nights, the 800-strong contingent of rally competitors, technicians, officials, medical staff, volunteers and media will be encamped at a purpose-built bivouac, before the event finishes back at Yas Marina Circuit at 4.30pm on March 29.
The Desert Challenge is supported by Al Dafrah Region Municipality, Abu Dhabi Municipality, the UAE Army, Abu Dhabi Police, Nissan Middle East, Yas Marina Circuit, ADNOC, Abu Dhabi Aviation, Al Ain Water, Tadweer, Yas Island and the Qasr Al Sarab Resort.