SUPER TEAMS HEAD FOR DESERT SHOWDOWN AS ARAB DRIVERS PREPARE TO SHARE WORLD STAGE
World Cup winners aim to keep Peterhansel in their sights as French ace plots third UAE Desert Challenge victory
Dubai, UAE, 12th October 2005: The powerful Mitsubishi and Volkswagen works teams are heading for a big tussle in next month's UAE Desert Challenge as Arab drivers prepare to share a world stage with the major forces in international cross country rallying.
With French star Bruno Saby having already secured the drivers' title in the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup, Volkswagen will be looking to extend their dominance of the series during its final round in the UAE from 9-14 November.
But they face a determined Stephane Peterhansel who will be seeking his third Desert Challenge victory in four years to send him on his way to what Mitsubishi hope will be a hat-trick of Dakar Rally triumphs two months later.
"Bruno has already wrapped up the World Cup but the battle between Mitsubishi and Volkswagen is an ongoing one and they will both be going all out to outdo each other in the Desert Challenge," said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, chairman of the organisers.
Volkswagen have yet to confirm their driver line-up from between Saby, two-times former world rally champion Carlos Sainz, Jutta Kleinschmidt and Giniel de Villiers, but they are determined to keep Peterhansel in their sights.
A second successive victory in the Desert Challenge (ww.uaedesertchallenge.com)
two years ago helped propel Peterhansel towards his first of two consecutive Dakar Rally triumphs and it is a pattern he will be hoping to repeat.
Peterhansel and team-mate Joan 'Nani' Roma will both be driving modified versions of the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution when they take on the giant sand dunes and sabka plains lining a route which sweeps through some of the most spectacular and demanding desert terrain in the Middle East.
The Desert Challenge is sponsored by the 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 major developers Nakheel, Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and Inmarsat, providers of satellite communications.
Among the Arab drivers hoping to make an impact will be the UAE's Damas Rally Team pairings of Tamjid Abdullah and Yazan Rijleh in a Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution and Sadiq Fadhal and Imad Nabhan in a Toyota Landcruiser. Meanwhile Qatar's former Middle East rally champion Sheikh Hamad Al Thani enters a Nisan Patrol.
Another UAE-based crew, Mark Powell and co-driver Tim Ansell, showed their liking for the event last year with a splendid seventh place overall and they will be seeking another impressive finish in their Land Rover.
For the last six years a group of Abu Dhabi-based French expatriates have contested the event as the Fitech Rally Team, producing some fine performances. Last year Laurent Rosso won the production class and he returns this time in a Nissan Pathfinder along with his father, Joseph, partnered by Rolf Neugebauer in another Pathfinder, and Francois-Xavier Tourangin in a Mitsubishi Pajero 3500G01
Reinforcing the host country's challenge will be the Liberty Chevrolet team trio of drivers Yahyah Bilhili, Ahmed Bin Suqat and Obaid Al Hathboor, along with Saeed Al Hameli and navigator Ali Shaiban in a Nisan Patrol.