UAE hopes in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge next month will again be pinned on Yahya Al Helei, who is seeded tenth and will be looking to add to his impressive list of finishes in the event.
Al Helei’s son, Mansour, drives one of 12 Nissan Patrols entered, as do fellow Emiratis Nabil Al Shamsi, Nooh Buhamid, Matar Al Mansoori and Ali Al Kitbi, Lebanon’s Emil Khneisser, and Saudi’s Ibrahim Al Muhana.
Fresh from his success in the inaugural UAE Desert Championship which saw him clinch the overall cars and buggies class, Emirati Ahmad Al Fahim competes in a Powertec Storm buggy built in Dubai.
Spain’s Nani Roma will defend his drivers’ title as fellow-countryman Marc Coma chases a record eighth bikes victory in the event.
This year’s two Dakar Rally winners are in a line-up of 108 competitors from 32 countries announced today by the rally organisers, the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE.
With the 24th edition of the Desert Challenge also forming the opening round of this year’s FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes, Coma tops the list of 61 seeded riders from 22 countries.
Among his biggest rivals will be new KTM team-mate Sam Sunderland, the talented young Dubai-based rider.
Sunderland was on course for a superb Desert Challenge victory last year before a time penalty collected for a basic technical infringement dropped him to third.
“We’re very happy with the size and quality of entries, and we have all the ingredients of a classic event,” said ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the FIA Vice President.
“Whether it’s their first Desert Challenge or they’ve been here many times before, all competitors face a big test. It doesn’t matter how many times you do this event, you have to prepare thoroughly and have maximum concentration from start to finish.”
Taking place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge begins with a super special spectator stage on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, on 5 April.
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