Sulayem says Sheikh Nahyan reinforces ATCUAE efforts to boost local participation in motorsport

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, who is a strong supporter of the Desert Challenge, with ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem


The Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE announced today that entry fees for next week’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED BY Nissan will be waived for all privately-entered Emirati and GCC competitors.

ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem said that the move was taken at the request of H.E. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development and Chairman of the General Authority for Youth and Sports Welfare.

“Sheikh Nahayn is a strong supporter of the Desert Challenge and is very keen to support our efforts in making motor sport more affordable for Emiratis, and attracting a new generation of competitors,” said Sulayem, the rally founder.

Among the Emirati competitors tackling the 26th edition of the Desert Challenge is Yahya Al Helei who will be extending one of the longest running appearance records in international motor sport this week. Al Helei has not missed the event since it was launched in 1991, competing 24 times as a driver and once on a bike.

His trail of impressive results includes 2nd place in 2008 and 4th twice in the last four years, and he is ready to take on the world’s best again, this time accompanied by Qatari co-driver Nasser Al Kuwari in a Nissan Pick-Up.

Al Helei epitomises the spirt of the event, which starts with Saturday afternoon’s super special spectator stage at Al Forsan International Sports Resort in Abu Dhabi.

“So many of our competitors come back year after year because they see this as a special event in its own right,” said Sulayem. “There’s a great camaraderie between drivers and riders, from home and abroad, and nobody reflects this more than Yahya.”

Al Helei’s current Nissan Pick-Up started life as a production vehicle, but has been modified significantly to make it more competitive with the T1 prototypes. He beat all of them on last year’s first desert stage to set the fastest time and the take the outright lead, ultimately going out on the penultimate day after a heavy landing.

Al Helei says: “The Desert Challenge has a special place in my heart as it’s my home rally and I’ve been racing in it since its start. I love to battle alongside the best drivers in the world.”

As part of the ATCUAE’s efforts to protect the environment, Desert Challenge competitors face time penalties, fines and ultimately disqualification this week for not preventing leaks into the ground of fuel or oil, or leaving behind tyres or waste.

The Club last year received Achievement of Excellence certification through the global sustainability programme operated by the FIA Institute, and its efforts to increase awareness of environmental management issues in motor sport have earned additional recognition and support this year.

H.E.Eisa Saif Al Qubaisi, General Manager of Tadweer, the Center of Waste Management -Abu Dhabi, said: “Our sponsorship and strategic partnership of Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in the Western Region, as well as the services we are offering during the event, serve our mission of promoting sustainability and reflect our commitment to social responsibility in Abu Dhabi.

“We strive through our participation in this Challenge to reiterate our support to major events that are held in the Emirate and to contribute to its success and advancement.

“Hand in hand with the event’s organizers and partners, we aim to highlight such initiatives that earned Abu Dhabi a leading position on the international level.”

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 the 2016 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies and the opening round of this year’s FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship.

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.