Al Helei extends 100 per cent 23-year appearance record in classic UAE event

Yahya Al Helei on his way to another strong finish in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge last year.

Yahya Al Helei on his way to another strong finish in the Abu

Dhabi Desert Challenge last year.

Al Helei with son Mansoor.

Al Helei with son Mansoor.

Dubai, UAE, 10 March, 2013: Yahya Al Helei is ready for another assault on the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge next month as he extends his remarkable 100 per cent appearance record in the UAE round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup in the dual role of driver and father.

Returning to action in his reliable T2 Nissan Patrol in partnership with experienced Emirati co-driver Khalid Al Kendi, Al Helei has not missed the event since it was launched in 1991, and he approaches the 23rd edition on 4-11 April with all his usual enthusiasm.

Al Helei has a permanent place in the Desert Challenge record books after scoring a host of podium and top ten finishes, and multiple production class successes.

While he has not given up hope of an outright victory, he is just as eager this year to help guide son Mansoor safely to the finish after the 19-year-old suffered an early exit last year alongside young co-driver Ali Mirza in another Nissan Patrol.

“Mansoor was my co-driver two years ago and this will be his second time as a driver, so I want him to do well,” he said. “I’m teaching him how to cross the big dunes safely, how to take care of his car, and I want him to help any other competitors who get into difficult situations.”

“I’ve been competing in the Desert Challenge for 23 years and I still enjoy it. I have a lot of memories, it’s a very special event for me because it’s my country’s World Cup rally, it’s always very competitive, and it’s fun.”

It has taken some of the world’s best drivers and the most powerful factory-built cross country rally machinery to block his path to outright victory in the standard Nissan Patrol, and other basic 4WD cars he has driven over the years.

Fourth overall and T2 winner last year and in 2011, he was beaten only by Nasser Al Attiyah in a prototype BMW X3 in 2008. “If I’d had one of the most powerful cars I could have won many times,” he said. “But I’ve achieved a lot of high finishes in T2 cars and that is very satisfying.”

Using his uncanny local knowledge among the giant dunes of the Empty Quarter, he has impressed no-one more than Desert Challenge founder Dr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers.

“Yahya is a very skillful desert driver and he has a great record in this event,” said Sulayem. “It’s nice to see his son following in his footsteps, and I hope that many more young Emiratis follow him into the Desert Challenge in the years ahead.”

Taking place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler's Representative in the Western Region, the 2013 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is the second of eight rounds in the FIA World series for cars and trucks, and the first of six rounds in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.

The event’s high-profile line-up of strategic partners and supporters includes the Diwan of the Ruler’s Representative for the Western Region, Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, Nissan, ADNOC, Abu Dhabi Aviation and Qasr Al Sarab Resort by Anantara.

Taking place entirely within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the 2013 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge starts and finishes at Yas Marina Circuit and once again takes competitors on a testing journey through the spectacular desert terrain of the Western Region of Al Garbia.

Reaching deep into the Liwa desert, the route crosses some of the most demanding landscapes on earth, testing drivers, riders, and machinery to the limit in the crossing of towering dunes and desert plains.

The event’s official itinerary begins with competitor documentation and an official press conference on Thursday 4 April, with scrutineering following the next day before a super special stage on 6 April leading to five days of competitive desert stages.