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OVERSEAS EXPANSION BOOSTS ABU DHABI DESERT CHALLENGE IN COUNTDOWN TO 25TH ANNIVERSARY

Sulayem says new liaison offices will attract more competitors, increase event’s global viewing audience

Dubai, UAE, 05January, 2015: The opening of four new overseas liaison offices for the

Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED BY Nissan is expected to accelerate the growth of the event now counting down to its 25th anniversary this year.

Covering the UK and Ireland, Holland and Belgium, Russia, Ukraine and the former CIS Nations, and South Africa, the four new representative offices have been given the key responsibility to boost competitor numbers from those countries.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem: “We’re committed to the continued development of the Desert Challenge.”

The Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE, the rally organisers, say the appointments will also help to grow the event’s global TV audience, which exceeded 64 million viewers for the 24th edition last April of the world’s ultimate desert rally.

“We’re committed to the continued development of the Desert Challenge and have taken steps to make it a bigger and better event as we prepare for its 25th anniversary,” said ATCUE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, founder of the rally and FIA Vice President.

“We have chosen people who have strong connections with cross country rally teams and competitors in their respective regions to operate the four new liaison offices.

“We’re confident they will help us attract more experienced drivers and riders into the Desert Challenge, and that this will increase media interest in the event in those countries, resulting in more growth of our global audience.”

The 25th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, taking place from 27 March to 2 April 2015, is part of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.

The new liaison office for Russia, Ukraine and the former CIS Nations will be operated by the UAE-based VVI Rally Team, whose appearance last April underlined the event’s ability to unite countries divided by reasons outside sport.

With the Crimean crisis grabbing world attention, VVI went into action in Abu Dhabi with a Ukrainian general manager, Vadim Pritulyak, overseeing five Russian drivers and riders and a team of mechanics from Kiev, the flags of the two countries being proudly flown together.

Sussex- based rally bike preparation and assistance specialist Desert Rose Racing, run by Dakar Rally veteran Patsy Quick, have been appointed to run the UK and Ireland liaison office.

Quick has a permanent place in cross country rallying history. In 1999 she became the first British woman to successfully complete the Optic 2000 Rallye Tunisie, and over the next two years won the British Women’s Enduro Championship twice, as well as the European Women’s Enduro title.

Her 2003 Dakar Rally debut almost ended in tragedy, when she crashed heavily, was temporarily blinded and unable to walk. Luckily spotted by a media helicopter she was taken to a makeshift hospital, then flown to Cairo where she underwent life-saving surgery to remove her spleen. Despite her ‘near death’ experience she was back in action in the event 12 months later.

Vorden-based HT Rally Raid, managed by another Dakar bikes veteran, Henk Hellegers, has been appointed to run the Desert Challenge liaison office for Holland and Belgium.

The new South African liaison office inJohannesburg is run by Daryll Curtis, his country’s ten-times offroad bikes champion and six-times enduro champion.

In another new Desert Challenge appointment, Hofheim-based Tony Schattat Rallye Navigation Solutions take over liaison responsibilities for Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.

Other existing liaison offices cover Sweden, Finland and Denmark, France Luxembourg and Switzerland, as well as Italy, Slovenia and Slovakia.

Full details, as well as the 2015 rally guide, can be found on the official website at www.abudhabidesertchallenge.com