UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge
2002 FIA and FIM World Cups, final round

The organising committee of the forthcoming UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge, which brings both the FIA and FIM World Cups to a close at the end of October across the sands of the UAE, is planning to make this the strongest event ever in terms of organisation and quality of the nternational entry.

KTM team manager Heinz Kinigadner has confirmed that the Austrian factory KTM bikes team will send at least three representative riders to the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge ."At this stage we are definitely looking to send Carlo de Gavardo, Cyril Despres and Richard Sainct. The Desert Challenge is an important event for them and one which the team is looking forward to immensely."

Defending FIA World Cross Country champion Jean-Louis Schlesser has confirmed his intention to compete in the 2002 UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge, starting in Abu Dhabi on October 30th.

Former world rally champion Miki Biasion has signed a contract with Team Mitsubishi Ralliart and will tackle the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge.Italian Biasion, who won the World Rally Championship title with Lancia in 1988 and 1989, will team up with his long-standing co-driver Tiziano Siviero to drive a 2002 specification Mitsubishi Pajero They will be part of a five-car Mitsubishi line-up entered in the five-day finale to this year's FIA World Cross-Country Championship. Biasion joined Team Mitsubishi Ralliart shortly before a recent comprehensive test session in Morocco, where team members carried out a detailed test and development programme with the new Pajero Evolution.

The Pajero Evolution rally version world debut was at the Paris Motor Show in September and it will be on display at the Birmingham International Motor Show at the National Exhibition Centre this month.

"We are delighted to welcome Miki to the team," said French team manager Dominique Serieys. "These are very busy and exciting times for Mitsubishi and he brings a lot of experience to the team. We spent two weeks testing in Morocco recently and Miki and Tiziano fitted in very quickly." Six-times former Paris-Dakar Rally winner Stephane Peterhansel and defending Arras-Dakar champion Hiroshi Masuoka will drive a pair of new Pajero Evolutions in the UAE Desert Challenge, while Biasion and French team mate Jean-Pierre Fontenay are entered in 2002-specification cars. Portugal's Carlos Sousa is scheduled to drive a fifth car.

Peterhansel, who dominated the Dakar for several seasons as a motorcycle rider with Yamaha, switched to four wheels several years ago and finished second overall in 2000 in a Mitsubishi-engined Mega Special and won the T1 category last year.

Japan's Masuoka won the event for Mitsubishi back in January 2002 after several failed attempts and will use the UAE Desert Challenge to further develop the new car before taking the start of the 2003 Dakar in January. Biasion is no stranger to the UAE Desert Challenge and has taken part on several occasions as the driver of a Truck entered in the T4 category. Peterhansel last competed in the UAE two years ago in a Mega Special.

"It is a major boost for the UAE Desert Challenge to welcome drivers of their stature," said Mohammed Ben Sulayem. "It proves that our event is seen as an ideal testing ground for the latest cars in the championship."

-duby miller-