Big World Championship Force Gears Up For Mighty UAE Desert Challenge
Sulayem's international "family" arrives by air, land and sea for one of motor sport's great adventures
Dubai, UAE, 5 October 2004: All roads lead to Dubai this week in the countdown to the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge, as the men, women and machines of the FIA World Cup for cars and FIM World Championship for bikes assemble for one of motor sport's most colourful international adventures.
With 132 drivers, riders and equipment from 42 countries descending on the UAE by air, land and sea, there is a buzz of activity as final preparations get under way at Dubai International Marine Club and Le Meridian Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina, the rally HQ and co-hosts for the event.
The mighty gathering of prototype cars, modified 4WD vehicles, trucks and bikes which will contest the 2,020-km event starting officially from the Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi at 9.30am next Monday (October 11) morning is the most impressive and advanced collection of rally machinery ever to be assembled in the Middle East.
"The size, quality and international spread of the entries shows how important this event has become for the top teams, and for individual competitors from all around the world," said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, chairman of the organising committee
"We've got the top manufacturers' teams, most of the leading professional drivers and riders in international cross country rallying today, including world champions on four wheels and two, as sell as privateers from far and wide. They're all here to compete against each other, but at the same time they're all part of a big, cosmopolitan family that the Desert Challenge has become since we launched it in 1991. There's a great atmosphere between them all, and it grows each year."
Emphasising the contrasts between the members of that family this year are Osamu Hotter, a Japanese journalist, web designer and rally rider, and five-times German rally champion Matthias Kale, whose co-driver, Dr. Thomas M.Schuenemann, is CEO of one of his country's leading business software manufacturers.
Hotter announced his entry with a simple email message to the organisers, saying: "I'm planning to website live-report from the bivouac to Japan. See you in the dunes." Meanwhile, in a press release issued by his 2Drive Adventure Team, Kale said: "The world's top drivers are in this rally -- we are eager to know how we can compete in the desert." He will drive the prototype TW104 in which he made an impressive cross country rallying debut four weeks ago, winning all stages on the first day of the Baja Germany, before being halted by a clutch failure in the penultimate stage.
Team-manager Tina Schmidt, a former Dakar Rally driver, added: "The overall stage distance in the Desert Challenge equals nearly the total distance covered in one full year during the German rally championship. Therefore, stability and robustness are indispensable. Most important for Matthias and Thomas will be to experience their first driving in the desert without technical and navigation problems."
The event is held under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and H.H. General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Minister of Defence of the UAE.
The Desert Challenge is co-sponsored by Nissan, official vehicle supplier to the organisers, Nakheel, Abu Dhabi Aviation, the Government of Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Emarat, ADNOC, Messina Line, Oasis Pure Drinking Water, Inmarsat, providers of satellite communications, Konica Document Solutions, website designers ANLONITS, What's On, 7 Days, as well as Dubai International Marine Club and Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina.