SABY AIMS TO TURN BACK CLOCK IN DESERT CHALLENGE
Veteran French star aims for a winning return to World Cup series
Veteran French rally star Bruno Saby will be aiming to turn back the clock when the UAE Desert Challenge brings the 2007 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup to a big climax next week.
Saby, who won the event back in 1996, returns to action in the UAE looking to give BMW a breakthrough win in the 17th edition of the Desert Challenge, which is launched by a super special spectator stage in Dubai next Sunday (28th October).
The 58-year-old former World Rally Championship driver, who won the gruelling Dakar Rally in 1993, is relishing this latest challenge, although he would have preferred a Middle East return to action in different circumstances.
Driving one of two BMW X3CCs entered by the German-based X-Raid team, Saby has replaced the late Colin McRae, the former World Rally Champion who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash last month.
"Bruno has joined our team in very sad and unfortunate circumstances," said X-Raid team manager Sven Quandt. "But I cannot think of anyone who I would prefer to have in the team in this situation. He is an experienced and very successful driver and is a former winner of both the Dakar and the UAE Desert Challenge."
Sponsored by Nakheel, Dubai's premier property developer, and Nissan Middle East, the Desert Challenge www.uaedesertchallenge.com is held under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
With the Nissan Patrol the official car for a fourth year, the event is also sponsored by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, ADNOC, Emarat, Hertz UAE, Oasis, Inmarsat, Dubai International Marine Club and Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, the official hotel.
Saby will be partnered by fellow-Frenchman Alain Guehennec, who previously navigated for Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and guided the Qatari to third place in the recent Rally of Morocco.
Driving the other official BMW in the UAE, Al-Attiyah joins up with top Swedish lady co-driver Tina Thorner who had been contracted to partner McRae, as she did for the 2004 UAE Desert Challenge in a Nissan Pick-up.
Saby and Al-Attiyah, who finished fifth in last year's event, will be going all out to break a run of five successive Mitsubishi victories in the UAE where Luc Alphand defends his title supported by three-times winner Stephane Peterhansel and Spain's Joan "Nani" Roma.
"Bruno is a good friend of the Desert Challenge and I'll be very happy to welcome him back to the UAE," said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Emirates Automobile and Touring Club, the rally organisers. "He has achieved so much in his career and is still capable of winning at the top level."
After the Sunday super special spectator attraction in Dubai, the event has its official start from the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi at 9.30am next Monday (29th October), with 177 drivers, co-drivers and riders from 33 countries taking a powerful line-up of cars, trucks and bikes into action.
Most of the action is centred on the Moreeb Hill bivouac near Liwa, with special stages stretching out into the Empty Qarter across desert plains and towering sand hills before returning the survivors to the finish at Dubai International Marine Club at 4.30pm on Friday 2nd November.
Saby last contested the Desert Challenge in 2004 when his VW was dropped from contention by first day mechanical problems. The following year he won the 2005 Patagonia-Atacama Rally before taking a sabbatical from the world of cross country motorsport to recover from back surgery.
Saby entered the first of his 39 WRC rallies in 1973 and took his maiden victory in Corsica in 1986. He also won the 1988 Monte Carlo Rally before switching to cross country rallying.