Ben Sulayem: One of Middle East's biggest motor sport success stories set for another classic cross country rally episode
Abu Dhabi, UAE, 5th March, 2020: Preparations are in full swing for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge as the renowned cross country rally heads for its 30th anniversary later this month.
Taking place from 21-26 March, the Desert Challenge forms the second round of the 2020 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and buggies and the opening round of this year's FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship for bikes and quads.
“We are preparing for the Desert Challenge with maximum commitment and look forward to making this a memorable 30th anniversary edition of the event,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Emirates Motorsports Organization, the rally organisers, and FIA Vice President for Sport.
“We are in regular contact with the government authorities regarding health issues arising from the coronavirus outbreak, and are observing all official recommendations and protocols related to preventative measures and risk reduction at all times.
“The health and safety of competitors, support teams, officials, volunteers and rally enthusiasts attracted by the event is always a top priority.”
Detailed health guidelines have been laid out for the Desert Challenge by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sean Petherbridge who heads a highly skilled medical team for the event, the bulk of which takes place in the isolation of the Al Dhafra region's dramatic desert landscape.
The 30th anniversary edition of the event will feature a powerful international line-up of top drivers and riders who face another classic test of skill and endurance over a spectacular route sweeping through the region's giant dunes and sabkha plains.
Among the leading challengers will be the 2017 and 2018 winners, the UAE's Khalid Al Qassimi and Czech Martin Prokop, 2018 FIA World Cup champion Jakub Przygonski, and Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al Rajhi, placed fourth in the recent Dakar Rally.
Competition in the bikes category will be intense, with Honda stars Joan Barreda of Spain, Argentina's Kevin Benavides and South African Aaron Mare, as well as the UAE's Mohammed Al Balooshi, already confirmed, and the KTM, Husqvarna and Yamaha factory teams combined due to name another eight top riders shortly.
The rally will be based at Yas Marina Circuit, and competitors start arriving at the Rally HQ on Friday 20 March for official documentation and scrutineering of all vehicles before the ceremonial start at 7.00pm the following day.
The rally moves out from the UAE capital into the Al Dhafra Region the next morning, and for five nights will be based at a purpose-built bivouac. The event finishes back at Yas Marina Circuit at 5.00pm on Thursday 26 March.