PRIME MINISTER AIMS TO BUILD ON DESERT CHALLENGE WINNING RECORD
Coma aims for repeat bikes victory as he homes in on another world title
Rustam Minnikhanov, Prime Minister of the Russian Republic of Tatarstan, will be looking to build on a near perfect winning record in the UAE Desert Challenge later this month.
Minnikhanov, who has developed a warm friendship with the events' creator, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, has confirmed his place in the rally's 17th edition and plans to capture the trucks title for the fifth time in six years.
Prior to last year's event, the Prime Minister persuaded 14 times FIA Middle East rally champion Sulayem to come out of retirement for a day.
They had a friendly desert duel at the wheel of two mighty Kamaz factory trucks up Dubai's famous Big Red dune.
Diplomatically, nobody was saying who won, although Sulayem, President of the Emirates Automobile and Touring Club, the rally organisers, admits: "It was very close, and I enjoyed it, so maybe we'll have a re-match this time.
"A vehicle like that is very tough to handle because it has such a high centre of gravity and you've got to concentrate hard at all times. The experience told me just how good a driver the Prime Minister is."
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"He and his team have been very good supporters of the Desert Challenge over the years, and his record here speaks for itself."
Prime Minister Minnikhanov, who missed the 2005 Desert Challenge because of a broken leg, will take his place in a line-up of more than 120 drivers and riders from the Middle East and overseas for an event which is launched by a super special spectator stage in Dubai on 28th October.
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 sponsored by Nakheel, Dubai's premier property developer, and Nissan Middle East.
The Desert Challenge (www.uaedesertchallenge.com) is co-sponsored by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, ADNOC, Emarat, Hertz UAE, Oasis and Inmarsat.
While former world downhill ski champion Luc Alphand defends his cars title in the UAE, Spain's Marc Coma will be chasing a second successive bikes victory as he homes in on another FIM Cross Country Rallies world title.
Coma lost the world crown last year to David Casteu, but he led the Frenchman by nine points before the start of this week's Pharaohs Rally, the penultimate round of the series, and could wrap up the championship in Egypt.