Six continents collide at 2012 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Strong participation from South America in world-famous race

Two of Middle East’s most famous rally drivers to tackle Rub Al Khali

Record number of female entrants reinforces rally’s global appeal


ABU DHABI (UAE). Monday, 12 March, 2011:  The world’s ultimate desert rally, the 2012 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (30 March – 6 April) is set to feature an even more varied line-up than ever before, with some 35 different nationalities and a record number of female competitors already signed up to tackle the towering dunes and spectacular terrain of the formidable Liwa Desert.

With the registration deadline for the 22nd edition of one of the world’s toughest and most popular cross-country rallies just hours away, the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE), organiser of the race, has confirmed it has already received entries from across six continents.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, ATCUAE President and founder of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, said: “The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is a ‘Must’ for all serious rally drivers and riders. It is renowned for testing participants and their machines, to their absolute limits, giving them a chance to really prove themselves in front of their peers. That is why, in its 22nd year, it continues to attract such a strong line-up of entrants from around the world.”

In a significant development for the race, 2012 sees a marked increase in entrants from South America, with competitors from Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Venezuela and Uruguay already confirmed. By attracting growing numbers of entrants from a continent where rallying is extremely popular, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will further spread the names of one the world’s most beautiful and spectacular locations, the  Western Region of Al Gharbia.

Among the contestants battling it out across the breathtaking dunes and stunning scenery of the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter), there will once again be a strong contingent from right across the Middle East.  Notably, the UAE’s entrants include two of the region’s most famous rally drivers, Sheikh Abdulla Al Qassimi and 2004 FIA World Cup champion Khalifa Al-Mutaiwei.

Al-Mutaiwei, who recently announced his return to international cross-country rallying after an eight-year absence, will race with the celebrated German X-raid team. Another of the region’s most experienced rally drivers, Sheikh Abdulla Al Qassimi will take on the Desert Challenge in a Powertech Buggy, having claimed podium places for the past two years in the Middle East Rally Championship.

An indication of the increasing popularity of cross-country rallying among female racers, the global appeal of the rally sees the number of participants rise to six this year. Desert Challenge regular and UAE resident, Sheila Hutton-Barker will again compete in a Nissan Patrol as co-driver to her husband Ian. The Brit will be joined by contestants from Brazil, Bulgaria, the US and Italy, including the most experienced female quad biker in the field, Camelia Liparoti.

This year riding a Yamaha Raptor 700 quad bike, Liparoti has taken on and completed the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge three times before, providing the ideal springboard to help her claim the crown of women’s champion of the FIM Cross Country Rallies Championship for the past three years.

The Desert Challenge is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region, and with support from a number of key partners including as the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, Nissan and ADNOC.

This year it serves as the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship season-opener and the second round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup. It offers spectators unrivalled, free access to top-class motorsport in a number of breathtaking settings, with dedicated, easy-to-access viewing points in the beautiful desert of Al Gharbia.