The battle for the drivers’ title in the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies reaches a critical point in the 2021 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, with the top four contenders heading for a showdown in the penultimate round of the series.
Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah (61pts) leads the championship standings from Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi (44pts), with Argentinian Lucio Alvarez (42pts) and Russian Denis Krotov (37.5pts) also in the hunt and contesting the 30th anniversary event in the UAE from 6-11 November.
Partnered by Mathieu Baumel in a Toyota Hilux, Al-Attiyah knows that a third Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge career victory following his win in last month’s Rally of Morocco could be enough to clinch the World Cup drivers’ crown.
Al Rajhi and British co-driver Michael Orr in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive have other ideas, and will take confidence from the fact that their last visit to the UAE in February produced victory in the Dubai International Baja.
A World Cup first round win in Kazakhstan, meanwhile, underlined the credentials of Alvarez and Spanish navigator Armand Monleon in another Toyota Hilux, and a big performance among the Al Dhafra dunes could boost their title hopes, with the final event to follow in Saudi next month.
Driving a Mini John Cooper Works Rally, Krotov certainly cannot be discounted, particularly as he is co-driven by compatriot Konstantin Zhiltsov, who has twice guided Vladimir Vasilyev to wins in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
As the rally sweep across the spectacular Al Dhafra dunes, Abu Dhabi Aviation helicopters will provide potentially life-saving aerial Search And Rescue support for the medical crews on permanent standby to be taken to the aid of competitors in trouble.
Nader Ahmed Al Hammadi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Aviation stated: “Abu Dhabi Aviation seeks to secure elements of strength and safety for the success of this year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge by providing air support for the global event by participating in three advanced helicopters (Bell 412 and 212) that will be used for logistical support and air ambulance purposes, in addition to search and rescue operations.”
He added: “This makes the participation of the Abu Dhabi Aviation’s aircraft vital in giving contestants and observers a sense of safety. Our presence is considered a key element of the rally’s success given the harsh environmental conditions represented by the Emirates desert, especially that the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is the longest desert rally in the Middle East,”
Al Hammadi stressed that Abu Dhabi is witnessing a quantum leap in the world championships it hosts, especially that the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge brings together senior drivers and riders from all over the world to participate in a real test of skill and ability to win world titles.
“The company has set its sights on supporting sports and athletes and has not failed to participate in this event for years.” He added: “We offer our expertise over 47 years to make this major global sporting event a success, through our modern aircraft, and highly experienced pilots and engineers.
“The company appreciates the role of those in charge of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, and we take this opportunity to express our great appreciation to Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Al Dhafra region, for sponsoring this global event.
“We also thank the Emirates Motorsports Organization (EMSO), headed by Mohammed Ben Sulayem, for organising this event, which contributes to directing the world’s attention to the UAE.”
Abu Dhabi Aviation is the largest helicopter operator in the Middle East and North Africa, and is a national joint stock company that owns and manages a total of 65 aircraft in both rotary and fixed wing, and has received many international safety awards, including the Platinum Safety Award from the International Helicopter Association.
Ben Sulayem said: “We’re indebted to Abu Dhabi Aviation for the vital role they play, year after year, in ensuring the safety of competitors in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. This is a major factor behind the event’s long running success.”
The Desert Challenge is also the final round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.