Newly formed Abu Dhabi team bring best of UAE to Desert Challenge - GulfToday

Newly formed Abu Dhabi team bring best of UAE to Desert Challenge

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, the first ever Emirati to win the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in 2017, will compete in the event on the T1 class.

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

A thrilling new chapter for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (ADDC) continues to unfold as the World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) prepares for Round 2 of its second season.

In a first for the Desert Challenge, a team has been formed to represent the UAE. The Abu Dhabi Team brings together a strong Emirati line-up, with leading competitors from each category coming together to conquer their home territory.

In line with its ongoing mission to create an environment that enhances the importance of practicing sports and growing sports programs for all segments of the community, The Abu Dhabi Team is sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, the first ever Emirati to win Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in 2017, will be taking on the T1 class. In T4, 2015 ADDC T2 winner Mansour Al Helei will be battling it out on the demanding dunes.

Mohammed Al Balooshi stands out amongst the thirty bikes as the current FIM Baja World Cup point’s leader after winning the opener in Saudi Arabia.

Sultan Al Balooshi completes The Abu Dhabi Team line up in the bikes competing in Rally 2. Only five quad riders in this year’s Desert Challenge are entered into the W2RC, with Abdulaziz Ahli leading the way as he aims for a hat-trick, having come out on top at the last two editions of the ADDC.

Another prominent UAE national competitor, Yahya Al-Helei, entered as an independent in a Nissan Pickup T1, is set to continue his record-breaking run as the only driver to have competed in every edition of the Desert Challenge since its inception in 1991. He is also the father of Mansour Al-Helei, making the Al-Heleis one of the UAE’s best known names in the world of Rally-Raid.

Khalid Bin Sulayem, the EMSO President, commented: “Last year marked a really exciting start to the World-Rally Raid Championship, and the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge played a big role in that success. This time we’re looking to bring even more of what the UAE has to offer to the championship, and part of that comes in the form of this exciting Abu Dhabi Team. We’ve brought the racing even closer to the fans for this 32nd edition of the Desert Challenge, with HQ set up in the heart of Abu Dhabi, meaning the home crowd will be up close and personal with this exciting UAE talent.”

The rally is presented by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and organised by the Emirates Motorsport Organisation (EMSO). Action gets underway with a Prologue on Monday and runs through to March 3, as the competitors race through spectacular dune territory across 1,311 kilometres of Special Stages.

30 FIA Priority Crews plus 25 riders on bikes and quads will be taking on the second round of the World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC). These 55 contenders are seeking a win among the dramatic dunes of the Al Dhafra region alongside twenty-one non-championship entrants competing in FIA classes and thirty-three in FIM, to complete a rich and varied line-up of 109 competitors.

The 32nd edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has partnered with a new host.

Al Dhannah City comes forward as the Prologue for all categories on Sunday, with five-time Dakar winner JP Cottret in charge of the opening. Stage 1 (Ruler’s Representative Court Al Dhafra Region) will start without any formalities, as the second longest stage (405km) will be highly demanding, starting in Ghiyathi City all the way to Tal Mor’eb. Competitors will then head through Qasr Al Sarab, where many of them are familiar with the desert and the soft sands that make up the next three stages.

The traditional marathon stages for bikes and quads will be during Stage 2 (ADNOC Distribution) and Stage 3 (Abu Dhabi 360). Stage 4 (Al-Futtaim Toyota) marks the longest stint in the rally at 458km, as the competitors are challenged with sharp climbs, deep descents and technical ridge crossings. Stage 5, the Abu Dhabi Aviation leg, will drive north, putting all those competing to the test with a special stage that brings more speed and flat tracks, thickening the plot as the race comes to an end.

As the cars, bikes and quads tear away from Abu Dhabi on Sunday morning to tackle these five challenging stages.

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