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.
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