Dubai, UAE: Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah, who is tackling one of the most demanding campaigns of his career this season, is aiming for victory in next month’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge to reinforce his bid for a second Dakar Rally triumph.
Al Attiyah will contest the second round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies in the UAE from 4-11 April alongside Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz in the new Qatar Rally Team buggy which made such an impact on its competitive debut in South America two months ago.
“It is a very important rally for me, and it’s also a very difficult one,” said Al Attiyah, during a break from preparations in Mexico for this weekend’s third round of the World Rally Championship.
“It’s a great test for the buggy, and I’m looking forward to it. We tested the car in Spain last week and I’m very impressed with it. We want to win the Desert Challenge, but it won’t be easy. There are a lot of big dunes to get through, and it is always tough.”
Taking place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler's Representative in the Western Region, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge doubles up as the
first of six rounds in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.
The event’s high-profile line-up of strategic partners and supporters includes the Diwan of the Ruler’s Representative for the Western Region, Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, Nissan, ADNOC, Abu Dhabi Aviation and Qasr Al Sarab Resort by Anantara.
Organised by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the event forms part of a hectic 2013 programme for Al Attiyah, who is contesting both the FIA World and Middle East Rally Championships, in addition to his cross country rally programme.
“Nasser is a one of the top drivers in cross country rallying and we’re always very happy to welcome him to the Desert Challenge,” said Dr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the ATCUAE and founder of the event. “We’ve heard a lot about his new buggy, and it will be very interesting to see how it performs in our desert conditions.”
This season’s demands have already taken their toll on Al Attiyah. After an exhausting bid in the Dakar, where he was within reach of the lead before a broken water pump put him out of the event, he flew home to Qatar and straight into the opening round of the FIA Middle East series
While he won the event, he finished it “in bad shape”, suffering from flu and muscle cramp, and was forced to pull out of this season’s second WRC round in Sweden, although he has since fully recovered and is relishing another tilt at the UAE’s classic cross country rally.
Starting and finishing at Yas Marina Circuit and running entirely within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the 2013 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge provides a stern test for competitors and rally machinery on a dramatic journey through the giant dunes of the Western Region of Al Garbia.
Sweeping deep into the Liwa desert, the route crosses some of the most world’s most spectacular desert landscapes, where driving skills must be matched by precise navigation techniques and desert knowhow just to reach the finish.
The event’s official itinerary begins with competitor documentation and an official press conference on Thursday 4 April, with scrutineering following the next day before a super special stage on 6 April leading to five days of competitive desert stages.
Nasser Al Attiyah