The stage is set for another epic chapter of cross country rallying as the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge prepares to mark its 30th anniversary with a powerful send-off in the UAE capital.
The South Grand Stand support pits area at Yas Marina Circuit was alive with activity today as the cars, buggies, bikes and quads readying for the event underwent mechanical scrutineering ahead of a 1,948km passage through the spectacular Al Dhafrah region.
The rally’s first competitive element gets underway at 1.30pm tomorrow when the bike and quad riders, including Austria’s new FIM Cross-Country Rallies world champion Matthias Walkner, compete on a 2km Yas Island super special stage.
The ten fastest finishers will choose their starting position for the following day’s 262km first desert stage, which begins on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, and takes the rally into the Al Dhafra dunes, finishing at Hameem, a short distance from the rally bivouac.
KTM star Walkner, French Yamaha rider Adrien Van Beveren and Australia’s Gas Gas challenger Daniel Sanders are among those who want to avoid the navigational challenge of being first out on Sunday morning.
By the time top seeded driver Nasser Al Attiyah sets off on the opening stage, the route ahead for the cars will be clearly marked, although navigation remains a critical element from start to finish.
Strict Covid-19 protocol is in place for the penultimate round of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars, and the final round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship.
“We have worked closely with the UAE government, the FIA and the FIM, to develop the Covid-19 protocol, and look forward to a safe and secure 30th edition, and another outstanding test of cross country rallying at its best,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Emirates Motorsports Organization (EMSO) and FIA Vice President for Sport.
As the new official automotive sponsor for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Al-Futtaim Toyota will be supplying a fleet of vehicles to the EMSO for use by officials, marshals, dignitaries, and media representatives.
Andy Barratt, Managing Director, Toyota, and Lexus at Al-Futtaim said: “The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has set the highest standards in cross-country rallying over the years. We are pleased to partner with the EMSO as we further cement our position as a leading automotive partner in the motorsport arena, and build on our heritage of providing the UAE with legendary rides and exceptional driving experiences.
“Forged from success in the heat of competition, Toyota brings motorsport technology and design to the world of the road car, making ever-better, more durable vehicles that are intrinsically rewarding and fun to drive such as the Land Cruiser, with its heritage intertwined with that of the UAE.”
“Strengthening its support for local and international rally motorsport and in line with its commitment to sponsoring iconic events that deliver benefits for fans and customers, Al-Futtaim Toyota will be supplying a fleet of vehicles to the rally organizers.”
Dehydration is one of the biggest threats to competitors in extreme motor sport events run in high temperatures, but the EMSO’s partnership with Al Ain Water means the risks will be greatly reduced at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
Research carried out by the rally organisers has highlighted how dehydration affects physical and mental performance, and even at low levels can lead to severe physiological consequences. Side effects like poor concentration, co-ordination and reaction time can lead to accidents for competitors.
Ensuring drivers, riders and marshals have ample water supplies of Al Ain Water throughout the Abu Dhabi Deseret Challenge, is a top priority, and water stations will be set up across the five demanding special stages running through the Al Dhafra dunes.
“The support of our key sponsors has been crucial to the success of the rally over 30 years,” said EMSO President Mohammed Ben Sulayem. “We’re delighted to welcome Al-Futtaim Toyota on board for the motor sport expertise, as well as the fleet of vehicles, that they provide. We’re also very happy to extend our partnership with Al Ain Water, whose involvement is so important for everyone taking part.”
Taking place under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region, the rally is supported by the Ruler’s Representative Court Al Dhafra Region, UAE Armed Forces, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, ADNOC Distribution, Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi Aviation, National Ambulance, Al-Futtaim Toyota, Abu Dhabi Police, Abu Dhabi Municipality, Al Dhafra Region Municipality, Al-Ain Water and Tadweer.
Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge rally schedule
6 Nov Super Stage Yas Island – 2km
7 Nov Stage 1 Ruler’s Representative Court Al Dhafrah Region – 262.02km
8 Nov Stage 2 ADNOC Distribution – 333.43km
9 Nov Stage 3 Abu Dhabi Sports Council – 293.00km
10 Nov Stage 4 Abu Dhabi Aviation – 251.98km
11 Nov Stage 5 Yas Marina Circuit – 162.94km