Former world champion downhill skier heads powerful line-up for World Cup showdown

Former world champion downhill skier Luc Alphand will be going all out to defend his title in the UAE Desert Challenge when the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup reaches its climax next month.

Aiming for a repeat of his Desert Challenge victory 12 months ago, Alphand heads a powerful multi-national line-up of man and machinery preparing for the 17th edition of the Desert Challenge taking place from 28th October to 2nd November.

He joins forces with fellow-Frenchman and four-times winner Stephane Peterhansel and Spanish star Joan "Nani" Roma to form a powerful three-car challenge by the Mitsubishi Ralliart team.

But with Volkswagen and BMW also preparing to confirm strong 2007 Desert Challenge bids in a total line-up of around 130 drivers and riders from across the world, the stage is being set for another classic cross country rally showdown in the Empty Quarter.

Taking place under the patronage H.H.Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the 2,210-km event gets under way with a super special spectator stage in Dubai on 28th October.

Sponsored by Nakheel, Dubai's premier property developer, and Nissan Middle East, the event provides Alphand with another chance to show that he is just as much at home on sand as he used to be on snow.

He cruised to victory last year, winning by 15 mins 58 secs from Peterhansel who suffered a first-day disaster when a crash broke the steering of his Mitsubishi Pajero prototype.

"Luc hardly put a foot wrong last year," said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Emirates Automobile and Touring Club, the rally organisers. "But he knows you can't take anything for granted in this event. Look what happened to Stephane.

"It's impossible to pick a winner, but one thing that's for sure is that we can look forward to a very competitive and exciting event featuring many of the top competitors from around the world."

Among the foreign challengers out to make their mark will be Italy's Prisca Taruffi in a prototype Nissan Procar, as well as Belgium's Jacques Loomans in a Bowler Wildcat and Hungary's Balazs Szalay at the wheel of an Opel Antara.

Aiming to make sure that the men don't have things all their own way is Germany lady driver Andrea Mayer, a regular visitor to the Desert Challenge, who will be partnered by British co-driver Jane Doran in a Mitsubishi Pajero.

While much of the spotlight again falls on the battle of the prototypes, the tussle for the production class title will be just as competitive. French brothers Joseph Rosso and Laurent Rosso aim for victory in a pair of Nissan Pathfinders entered by the UAE-based Fitech Team, and New Zealand-born Glen Reid makes his challenge in a Nissan Patrol.

The 2007 UAE Desert Challenge is also sponsored by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, ADNOC, Emarat, Hertz UAE, Oasis and Inmarsat.

Preparations are now well under way at the event's official HQ, Dubai International Marine Club, and Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, for the arrival of the cars, trucks and bikes from around the world. Enthusiasts can keep up with developments by visiting

-credit: total communications