Abu Dhabi: Despite some experienced drivers in the fray, Shaikh Khalid Bin Faisal Al Qasimi is confident of retaining the title at the 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge that gets under way at the capital on Saturday.
With the capital having experienced very little rainfall this season, the course is going to be more challenging felt, Shaikh Khalid, who will be driving the same Peugeot Abu Dhabi Racing Team 3008 DKR with co-driver Frenchman Xavier Panseri.
“This year we didn’t have the rain as last year and with the soft sand, everyone, not just me will have to be little bit careful,” said Shaikh Khalid in a press briefing at the Yas Marina Circuit, yesterday.
“This is my fourth year but most of the drivers have been here over 10 times and have tremendous experience. I will still be looking to push the limits. It is important for me to carry on the challenge and set a new standard,” added Shaikh Khalid.
In a gruelling race like this, where the drivers would be covering over 100 kms in the desert heat, strategy is going to be the key, felt Shaikh Khalid.
“In a marathon rally, the important thing will be to have a plan each day. It is not like a World Rally where you can go to the maximum limit. We have to hold ourselves because you can break a part if you are over pushing. Every dune can post a new surprise. You put a good effort on the first day and see where you stand and then keep building on it,” said Shaikh Khalid, who revealed that he had made a few alterations with the springs of his two-wheel drive car, so that it can handle the soft sand better.
Shaikh Khalid has already done testing session in the desert earlier the week to see where he and his machine stands ahead of the race.
“We needed a quick test to check the set-up. It was very important to have the mechanics build the car again and I had to go again and get a feel of the car with the new set-up so that we got more comfortable. We tried a few changes like tyre pressure and balance and we are happy with what has been done,” said Shaikh Khalid.
A total of 112 competitors from 28 countries contesting in the third round of the 2018 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and buggies and the opening round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes and quads.
Shaikh Khalid’s main challenger will be Polish driver Jakub Przygonski, who comes into the race at the back of victory in the Dubai International Baja, earlier this month.
“I have a good feeling and experience after the win in Dubai should help. Two weeks ago, we were racing on the same sand and dune and hopefully we will do well here. Dunes are always harder with the car and though we can’t predict what can happen next, we will try to push from the start to finish on the podium,” said Przygonski, who will be taking part in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge for the ninth season.
“I haven’t won here in Abu Dhabi and hopefully, I can go on and win. I will be trying different type of tyres for this race. We have done some modifications to the car from Dubai and it should handle better; that’s what I feel,” said Przygonski, who will be driving the same Mini X-Raid that saw him to the title in Dubai.