The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Powered by Nissan has attracted a powerful international competitor line-up for the 25th anniversary edition of the event to be held from March 26-April 2.
Three reigning world champions – Russian driver Vladimir Vasilyev, Spanish rider Mark Coma and Polish quad star Rafal Sonik – head an entry list of 162 competitors from 36 countries announced by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) on Tuesday.
Vasilyev returns to defend his title alongside co-driver Konstantin Zhilstov in one of eight X-Raid Minis.
Coma will be looking to take his KTM to an eighth Desert Challenge success.
Sonik, meanwhile, will be aiming to complete back-to-back Desert Challenge victories to launch his bid for a second successive FIM world quads crown.
The Desert Challenge will be based at Yas Marina Circuit under an agreement between the ATCUAE and Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management. While the super special stage on March 28 will be a big draw for spectators, the main action takes place over five desert stages that follow, cutting through the
intimidating dunes and Sabkha plains of the Western Region of Al Gharbia. Among those aiming to beat
defending champion Vasilyev to the cars title is Qatar’s 2008 winner, Nasser Al Attiyah.
The top two seeds drive two of eight ALL4 Racing Minis prepared by X-Raid, with another carrying Poland’s Adam Malysz, the runner-up to Vasilyev last year.
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Separated by three places on the seeded entry list are Yahya Al Helei and son Mansour, currently making his name with Abu Dhabi Racing in the Middle East Rally Championship. Coma is seeded first in the bikes category ahead of Portugal’s Paulo Goncalves and Joan Barreda Bort.
Much attention will also focus on fourth-seeded Sam Sunderland, the UAE-based British rider.
The assembly of riders also includes Anastasia Nifontova, the first Russian female rider to compete in the FIM World Championship.
In the battle of the quads, the biggest threat to world champion Sonik could be posed by the rider the Pole succeeded as Desert Challenge champion last year, Qatar’s Mohammed Abu Issa.
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