LOHR AIMS TO MAKE HER MARK ON DESERT CHALLENGE
German lady driver gives world debut to new prototype in UAE as powerful force arrives for World Cup climax
Dubai, UAE, 2nd November 2005: Germany's most successful female touring car driver, Ellen Lohr, is poised to make her mark in next week's UAE Desert Challenge on her first venture into the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup.
She will be at the wheel of an all-new Mercedes-Benz ML 350 rally prototype which makes its world debut in the Desert Challenge, final round of the World Cup series, in a powerful line-up of 115 cars, bikes and trucks from 27 nations.
Lohr, who will be partnered by new co-driver Detlef Ruf, started her motorsport career in karts at the age of 14 and is the only woman to have won a round of the German Touring Car Championship.
Last year she switched to off-road racing and in only her third appearance finished second in the Baja Germany. Now, with 2,500 kilometres of testing in Tunisia under her belt in the new Mercedes-Benz M-Class Evo II, Lohr is looking forward to taking to the dunes of the UAE in preparation for her second assault on the Paris-Dakar rally which starts on December 31.
"The Desert Challenge represents a learning programme for us," said Lohr. "The field in marathon rallying is extremely competitive and I want to get experience with not only the new Mercedes-Benz rally car but also of my new co-driver."
The UAE Desert Challenge is sponsored by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, Nissan Middle East - with the Nissan Patrol the rally's official car - Dubai Waterfront, an 81 million square metre development by Nakheel, Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, ADNOC, Emarat and Inmarsat, providers of satellite communications.
Dubai International Marine Club, the permanent HQ for the Desert Challenge, will be a hive of activity over the coming days as a powerful international force of drivers, riders and rally machinery assembles from around the world.
"The excitement is building and we're all looking forward to the rally getting under way after months of preparations," said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, chairman of the organising committee. "Everything is in place and we expect a very competitive event."
For two days before the cars, bike and trucks head out into the Empty Quarter, Dubai's Ibn Battuta Mall will be the focal point for the event, which is co-sponsored by Oasis Water, Al Noor Hospital, Konica Minolta, ANLONITS, Messina Line and Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina, the official hotel.
On Tuesday (8th August), the public will have the chance to get a close-up view of all the vehicles when they go through scrutineering at Ibn Battuta Mall. The same venue will also stage the following afternoon's Prologue stage, a spectacular time trial starting at 4pm prior to the official start beside the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi at 9.30 the next morning.
No female driver has ever won the Desert Challenge, and while she faces a difficult test Lohr has some powerful backing as she attempts to follow another German lady driver, Jutta Kleinschmidt, who has managed two podium finishes in the UAE and is the only female driver to have won the Dakar Rally.
Mercedes-Benz in Germany has given its full support to her rally programme and the car which has been designed and constructed by TEAM ORC Sport Service, based near Stuttgart. "I'm very proud that Mercedes-Benz has opted to support us at this level," said Lohr. "Together with TEAM ORC we have a professional platform for a successful attempt on the FIA World Cup."