COUNTDOWN IS ON FOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP THRILLER AT ABU DHABI DESERT CHALLENGE
Abu Dhabi, January 29th: With excitement building for the 33rd edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the extensive preparations for the event continue to progress under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region.
The adrenaline-fuelled World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) is heading for the heart of the UAE capital, with the 2024 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge getting underway in just a month’s time (February 25th).
The occasion will mark the third time the desert classic has run as Round Two of the W2RC -picking up from the Dakar Rally. Back in 2022, the global governing bodies for motorsport in both cars and motorcycles came together to create the first-ever unified championship, the FIA & FIM World Rally-Raid Championship.
The undersecretary of the Ruler’s Representative Court Al Dhafra Region, H.E. Nasser Al Mansoori, said: “The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge represents H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s support for events, specifically for global sporting events. His commitment to the sport has brought the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, a high-profile and truly international event, to this region long ago. For decades, it has continued to showcase the unique natural beauty and cultural wealth that Al Dhafra has to offer to the world.”
The event, originally named the UAE Desert Challenge, celebrated 30 years of history just before the new World Series was created, and has come a long way since the idea of a rally-raid entirely made in the UAE was first drafted on a paper napkin by its founder, the current FIA President H.E. Mohammed Ben Sulayem. Now the high-profile event it is today, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge attracts the top competitors in the world and reaches motorsport fans across 190 countries globally through the distribution of top-class TV and media content.
For over three decades, the regional and national governments have played a central part in coordinating and facilitating the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, liaising with other departments and stakeholders in the Al Dhafra Region to establish a strategy to deliver a rally-raid event at the highest level.
H.E. Aref Hamad Al Awani, General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, appreciated the constant and continuous support that the Abu Dhabi Desert Rally receives from H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Al Dhafra Region, noting that the rally is one of the oldest international sporting events. Hosted by Abu Dhabi, it attracts an elite group of the most prominent motorsport stars from around the world. Al Awani pointed out that the desert nature and charming sand hills in the Al Dhafra region added more distinction to the Abu Dhabi Desert Rally, despite the difficulty of the task of reaching the finish line.
Al Awani said: “We are happy to partner with various governmental and private agencies and institutions in organising this important event, and we are confident of continuing excellence and presenting another impressive edition, adding to the history of this revered rally.”
Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge organisers, the Emirates Motorsports Organization (EMSO), are excited to present the 33rd version to the rally-raid community this year. The event will once again take place amongst the towering, awe-inspiring dunes of the Empty Quarter – the infamous Rub’ Al Khali desert, known for being the biggest ocean of sand on Earth.
Round Two of the World Championship series kicks off in Abu Dhabi on February 25th and runs until March 2nd, with the final logistical elements being put in place for the week-long event thanks to the support from numerous government bodies.
H.E. Khalid Bin Sulayem, the EMSO President, commented: “The work done behind the scenes to pull together an event of the magnitude and complexity of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is paramount, and none of this would be possible without the support of the Government of Abu Dhabi.
“I would like to extend our gratitude to H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his unwavering support. We need to thank him for believing in this project and for standing by us through all these years. Following his mandate, we will continue to work alongside our strategic partners the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and the other numerous governmental entities involved in the delivery of this event to confirm once again the position of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi as a major player on the map of global motor sport events”
Heading into the 33rd Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, a tough first round saw Spain’s Carlos Sainz win Dakar to lead the global championship rankings. He is the first ever over 60 years old to win the race, the first person ever to win in a hybrid car, and the first to win in an Audi – he was driving an Audi RS Q e-tron. Cristina Gutiérrez, 2023 Extreme-E winner for X44 Vida Carbon Racing, took the newly renamed Challenger category for Red Bull Racing to become the first female driver to win in her class since Jutta Kleinschmidt in 2001 was the overall winner.
Regional heroes Nasser Al-Attiyah and Yazid al Rajhi had mixed fortunes, with al Rajhi – who performed brilliantly at last year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and won the Dubai International Baja last December – led in the early stages until a crash forced his retirement. Al-Attiyah also had to retire following two days of mechanical issues. At the upcoming Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, both drivers will be aiming to live up to expectations.
In the Quad category, Argentinean and Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge regular, Manuel Andújar won his second Dakar against strong regional competition earlier this month. Last year’s winner Abdulaziz Ahli from the UAE was not in the race, but Andújar and Ahli will be going head-to-head in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Bike rider Ricky Brabec took victory for the dominant Monster Energy Honda Rally Team ahead of Hero’s Ross Branch. This was a truly historic podium for the Indian factory team Hero Motorsports, who will also be fielding a full lineup at this year’s ADDC. 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner Adrien Van Beveren took third place, and in the Truck category Martin Macík won behind the wheel of an Iveco.
Expectations for drama and thrills at this year’s rally-raid are sky high, and, given the number of retirements from Dakar, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will provide a crucial chance to renew intense world championship rivalries among the myriad of challenges of the Rub’ Al Khali. Many will come looking for redemption, others for the podium, and the rest towards settling their unfinished business with the desert.
To join in on what promises to be an action-packed Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, visit the event’s official website here. Competitor registrations are open until February 10th.
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative Court in Al Dhafra Region; presented by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council; with the support of this year’s Energy partner ADNOC Distribution; Automotive partner Al-Futtaim Toyota; Abu Dhabi Aviation; Al Ain Water; Governmental support from the Ministry of Defence & UAE Armed Forces , Abu Dhabi Police, Civil Defence, Abu Dhabi Distribution Co, Al Dhafra Region Municipality, and our media partner Abu Dhabi Sports TV.
Media Information contact:
EMSO Media Team
Natalia SOSA MEDINA
Tel: + 971 55 929 8025