Sulayem backs Nakheel to help event attract more top drivers

Former World Rally Champion Colin McRae could face a battle with brother Alistair in the 2007 UAE Desert Challenge, which is being sponsored for a third successive year by Nakheel, Dubai's premier property developer behind such iconic projects as The Palm Jumeirah and The World.

After a sparkling debut with the German-based BMW X-raid rally team in Spain recently, McRae looks odds on to make his second appearance in the 17th edition of the Desert Challenge which begins with a super special spectator stage in Dubai on 28th October.

Meanwhile, his younger brother Alistair, the former British Rally Champion, is keen to make his Desert Challenge debut in the all-new cross country rally car which he launched earlier this year.

The prospect of both McRae brothers going into action in the UAE was welcomed enthusiastically today by Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Emirates Automobile and Touring Club, the Desert Challenge organisers, when he officially thanked Nakheel for its continued backing for the Middle East's first world championship motor sport event.

"We want to continue to develop the event to attract more top drivers like this, as well as the leading manufacturers, foreign teams, competitors from around the Middle East, and of course the public," said Sulayem. "Nakheel's consistent support helps us to do this. They're working closely with us make the Desert Challenge a bigger and better spectacle."

Chris O'Donnell -- CEO, Nakheel said, "We are delighted to be the title sponsor of the Desert Challenge for our third consecutive year. The Desert Challenge is an event that features a selection of the world's leading rallying talent, attracts a large global audience, and has played a key part in raising the profile of the UAE as a destination.

"It therefore fits well with Nakheel; our projects are transforming the map of Dubai, attracting widespread international attention, and are a fundamental part of the vision to make Dubai a leading business and tourism destination."

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 event is also sponsored by Nissan, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, ADNOC and Emarat.

Colin McRae would be a serious threat to Mitsubishi's hopes of a sixth successive victory in the Desert Challenge, the final round of both the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup for cars and trucks, and the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.

The 1995 World Rally Champion, with 25 individual WRC victories to his name, is still one of the fastest drivers around. Just a few weeks after joining the BMW X-raid team he scored a stage win in last month's Baja Spain and finished second to Peterhansel.

He was partnered by top Swedish lady co-driver Tina Thorner, who was with McRae on his first appearance in the Desert Challenge three years ago when he was halted by engine problems. The X-raid team are regular challengers in the Emirates and also have Qatar's Nasser Al Attiyah and French WRC driver Guerlain Chicherit in their 2007 driver line-up.

The Desert Challenge would prove an ideal testing ground for Alistair McRae's new Enduro cross-country rally car ahead of its full-scale launch in a new one-make rally championship being launched next year. Alistair, who makes a one-off return to the FIA World Rally Championship later this month when he takes part in Rally New Zealand, has been heavily involved in the car's development along with his father, Jimmy, the five-times former British Rally Champion.

-credit: total commmunications