Abu Dhabi Racing driver Sheikh Khalid bin Faisal Al Qassimi is continuing preparations for the Dakar Rally with gruelling testing sessions in the Liwa desert.
The anniversary edition in January will run through three countries in South America – Peru, Bolivia and Argentina – and the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner is bidding for a positive result at the historic race.
Sheikh Khalid has been busy with testing runs on the outskirts of the capital in the company of co-driver Xavier Panseri.
He said: “Testing has been very difficult especially because I have not driven in severe desert conditions such as these for the past eight months.
“It has been a fruitful period because the conditions have been very, very difficult and that throws up fresh and further challenges before us as a team.”
“Making things even more difficult was the fact that we were the only people in the desert and any mistake could prove to be very costly.”
Behind the wheel of a Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi, this will be the second time that Panseri will be Sheikh Khalid’s co-driver.
“The progress has been good so far. I feel that I can understand him well, but of course there are a few points that we need to develop as part of being one team. For sure, the key element here is that we need to remain patient and not make any mistakes,” he said.
“We need to avoid getting stuck or getting lost in the desert. You cannot afford to make mistakes and then hope to win or be at the top of the standings. It is a very long rally and we need to be at our best at all times.”
Sheikh Khalid has been testing in the old 2008 DKR Peugeot car, while the new Peugeot car is on the way to Lima in Peru.
“There is no big difference in the two cars, both are a rear wheel drive busy style cars. The biggest technique that we’ve got to master for the moment is that we need to ensure how not to get stuck in the sand in whatever car we are in. No doubt, there is very little difference in driving the old car and the new one,” Sheikh Khalid said.
The Dakar 2018 will feature seven off road stages made up of 100 per cent dunes. The rally, set over 9,000 kms, of which nearly 5,000 kms will be special stages and more than 4,000 kms of road sections.
Handling altitude will be yet another aspect of training for the Abu Dhabi team as they are required to race at a height of more than 3,600 metres.
“We have been training with altitude masks, while trying to use maximum valves for the masks to get as close to the conditions that we would be going through,” he said.
In the last edition of the race, Al Qassimi’s Dakar Rally debut came to an end with just one day to go following a technical snag on Stage 11 from San Juan to Rio Cuart.
The FIFA Club World Cup proved to be a big hit in Abu Dhabi, where 10 days of action culminated in Real Madrid making history as the first back-to-back champions in competition history.
Local side Al Jazira surpassed expectations by reaching the semi-finals before losing 2-1 to Real Madrid, and finished fourth in the tournament.
In this week's UAE Spotlight, Sport360 reporter Matt Jones looks back on an eventful week in the UAE capital and tells us why the Club World Cup was so successful.
We also examine Belinda Bencic's win at Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai, as Reem Abulleil reflects on the Swiss' fine title run. She also reveals some of the big names currently practicing in the UAE as Dubai continues to attract tennis' top stars during preseason training.
The second edition of the Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup is shaping up to be another fantastic festival of football, with spaces for teams looking to take part running out fast.
Demand has been high, with teams of youngsters from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sri Lanka, and Bahrain already signed up.
Following a successful debut tournament earlier this year, the Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup will return to the capital on March 23-24, 2018.
Teams who sign up to take part in the Cup compete for the top prize of a trip to the Etihad Campus in Manchester, where the youngsters will train and play at the City Football Academy, the state-of-the-art facility used by Manchester City’s men’s and women’s teams.
Away from the pitch, the City Village will provide live entertainment, food and drinks, plus activities for the whole family.
Simon Hewitt, City Football Schools Abu Dhabi project manager, said: “There has been such a huge amount of interest in the second edition of the Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup. The event is shaping up to be an even bigger and better tournament.
“Spaces are limited, so we would encourage any teams that are interested in competing against players from all over the world to sign up as soon as possible. As a Club, we are committed to the development of youth football in this region and beyond. The Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup is an essential part of that objective and we want to encourage as many teams from across the GCC and the wider world to come together and test their football skills.”
To make the tournament appealing to even more young players, the 2018 edition will feature a new under 8s category alongside the under 14s, under 12s, and under 10s. There will also be an opportunity to enter a week-long training camp prior to the tournament kicking off.
For further information, and to register your club to take part in the Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup 2018 please visit: www.citycupabudhabi.com.