Ben Sulayem: Keeping competitors, volunteers hydrated a major priority as World Cup rally takes on the Rub Al Khali


Dehydration is one of the biggest threats to competitors in extreme motor sport events run in high temperatures, but thanks to research carried out in the UAE the risks will be greatly reduced in next month’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED BY Nissan.

Taking place under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western region, the 26th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is the second round of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and the opening round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.

Ensuring drivers, riders and marshals have ample water supplies is again a top priority presenting another logistical test for the Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE when the 26th edition of the event embarks on a dramatic passage into the Rub Al Khali.

For an 11th year the event’s life blood will be provided by Al Ain Mineral Water, one of UAE's largest bottled drinking water manufacturers and a name now as synonymous with the Desert Challenge as the Nissan Patrols used to carve out the route each year.

“Research we carried out here in the UAE showed that competitors and volunteers working in high temperatures can face a very serious risk of dehydration,” said ATCUAE President and EMSF President Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

“Dehydration affects physical and mental performance, and even at low levels can lead to severe physiological consequences. Side effects include poor concentration, co-ordination and reaction time which can lead to accidents for competitors. Keeping competitors, volunteers hydrated is a major priority as World Cup rally takes on the Rub Al Khali” added Ben Sulayem.

“For this reason we’re very happy to have Al Ain Water on board again to make sure we keep everyone properly hydrated in the desert, which is not an easy thing to do. It’s vitally important to have enough water readily available to protect competitors, and our marshals working out in the desert for hours on end, from the threat of heat stress and exhaustion.”

Findings from the research conducted by the ATCUAE in 2012 in conjunction with the University of Ulster, one of the UK’s top learning and research institutes, is now helping motor sport organisers around the world to combat the threat of dehydration.

Desert Challenge water stations will be set up across the five demanding competitive sections running through the Rub Al Khali following the super special spectator stage which launches the event at the Al Forsan Off-Road Race of Champions Circuit in Abu Dhabi on Saturday 2 April.

Each day, competitors and marshals will head off into the desert each day equipped with plentiful supplies while the rally bivouac, close to the Qasr Al Sarab Resort, is a virtual oasis thanks to extensive supplies of Al Ain Water.

At the end of the long, arduous desert stages competitors will be able to unwind and rehydrate inside the Al Ain Lounge, an air-conditioned dedicated relaxation area.

However, the nature of cross country rallying means that some Desert Challenge competitors will require treatment, and a 20-strong team of doctors and trauma specialists led by Dr. Sean Petherbridge, the ATCUAE’s Chief Medical Officer, will be based at the bivouac.

The Nissan Patrol, the “Hero of All terrain in Life”, is positioned for the 13th year as the official vehicle of the event. The line-up of strategic sponsors and partners includes the Ruler’s Court in the Western Region, Western Region Municipality, Abu Dhabi Municipality, the UAE Army, Abu Dhabi Police, National Ambulance Service, Nissan, Yas Marina Circuit, ADNOC, Abu Dhabi Aviation, Tadweer (The Center of Waste Management – Abu Dhabi), Rotana and Centro Hotels - Yas Island, Qasr Al Sarab Resort, and DP World.