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Super Special Stage at Marina Mall gets the action underway at the 2012 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Free-to-enter event offers up-close excitement in the Capital

Rally stars from across the globe descend on Abu Dhabi over the weekend

ABU DHABI (UAE). Saturday, March 31, 2011:The excitement continues to build ahead of the start of the 2012 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, which gets underway at 3pm Sunday (1st April) with the spectator-friendly Super Special Stage at Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi. Over the weekend, competitors from across the globe have been gathering at the Yas Marina circuit to conduct last minute preparations and for the official scrutineering.

The Super Special Stage is unique to off-road rallying, allowing spectators to get amazing views of the action, and get up-close to the carefully prepared vehicles and international line-up of drivers and riders from some 35 countries. This year, among the stars present will be rallying legend Marc Coma from Spain, the reigning bike world cross-country rally champion Helder Rodrigues, French rally hero Jean-Louis Schlesser as well as a host of the Middle East’s top rally star.

Sunday’s Super Special Stage is a free-to-attend event that is set against the spectacular backdrop of the city of Abu Dhabi, and located between Marina Mall and the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club. The specially designed two-kilometre off-road course establishes the starting order for Stage 1 of the rally,  which takes place Monday morning and sees the racers head off into the stunning desert scenery of Abu Dhabi’s Western Region of Al Gharbia.

“The Super Special Stage is a great opportunity for everyone, whether a big motorsport fan or not, to see some of the toughest machinery on the planet and understand the people who take on such a demanding challenge,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, founder of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Chairman of rally organisers the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE), and a 14-time Middle East Rally champion.

Some 150 competitors and their support crews have travelled from across six continents to set up base in Abu Dhabi at the rally’s Yas Marina circuit this weekend. Officials from the ATCUAE, the rally organisers, and observers from the FIA, motorsport’s world governing body, have been carrying out two days scrutineering, ahead of the Super Special Stage and five days of competitive stages, which will see them head into the beautiful Empty Quarter desert to tackle its towering sand dunes.

One of the first teams to arrive was the Russian G- Force team, with their two G-Force Proto models. Speaking from the Yas Marina, G-Force driver Boris Gadasin said: "We’ve been here for two weeks, acclimatising specially for this race, and the weather has been great. For Russians, the sand is really tricky, making the Desert Challenge on the hardest races in the world, but that’s one of the reasons we are really looking forward to getting going.”

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is ATCUAE and is held under the under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region. It is backed by a high-profile line-up of supporters that includes the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, Nissan and ADNOC.