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UAE Desert Challenge To Stay On Top of The World Sulayem makes pledge to keep event at the forefront of World Championship cross country rallying as stars prepare for start Dubai, UAE, 9 October, 2004: Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the driving...

UAE Desert Challenge To Stay On Top of The World

Sulayem makes pledge to keep event at the forefront of World Championship cross country rallying as stars prepare for start

Dubai, UAE, 9 October, 2004: Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the driving force behind the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge, pledged today that the event will remain at the forefront of international cross country rallying in the years ahead.

Sulayem, chairman of the organising committee for the event which he launched in 1991, said the Desert Challenge will continue to set the standard for the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, the series for cars and trucks, and the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.

Speaking at today's official pre-event press conference at the rally HQ, Dubai International Marine Club, Sulayem said: "We're committed as organisers to making sure that the UAE Desert Challenge keeps pace with the changes taking place in cross country rallying, and stays in the sport's top flight."

"We want to continue to attract all the major manufacturers' teams, and the top drivers and riders from around the world, and at the same time encourage more competitors from the Middle East to compete against the best from overseas."

Added Sulayem: "In a nutshell, we want to make this an even bigger and better event in the future, and we'll be looking for new ways to develop it as a spectacle, and as a vehicle to promote the UAE, and safety of competitors will remain a major priority."

Beginning at 3.30pm at the Jebel Ali Racecourse in Dubai tomorrow (Sunday), the Nakheel Prologue will be a thrilling appetiser for the main event which starts officially from the Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi at 9.30am on Monday morning.

The Desert Challenge is being 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 event 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, Gulf Agency Company, Konica Document Solutions, website designers ANLONITS, What's On, 7 Days, as well as Dubai International Marine Club and Le Meridian Mina Selah Beach Resort and Marina.

The rally's status was highlighted by the quality and range of competitors who joined Sulayem for today's official press conference. They included Frenchman Stephane

Peterhansel, arguably the world's top cross country rally driver and winner of the event for the last two years, his Japanese Mitsubishi team-mate and fellow-Dakar Rally winner, Hiroshi Masuoka, and former world rally champions Juha Kankkunen of Finland and Britain's Colin McRae in a Nissan Pick-up.

Also appearing was Norway's Pal Pål Anders Ullevålseter, on the verge of becoming the new world bikes champion of cross country rallying, veteran French driver Bruno Saby and his Volkswagen team-mate, top German leady driver Jutta Kleinschmidt, and former world Group N rally champion Gregoire de Mevius of Belgium.

Completing the line-up were Khalifa Al Mutaiwei, current leader in the World Cup standings, fellow-UAE driver Yayha Al Helei from Dubai's Liberty Chevrolet team, Frenchman Dominique Housieaux and another tough lady competitor, Germany's Andrea Mayer, and top riders Marc Coma from Spain, Poland's Jacek Czachor and the UAE's Khalid Khamis.

From Abu Dhabi on Monday morning, the event heads south for the first of four competitive stages, each of around 360ms, culminating in night halts at the bivouac beside the notorious Moreeb Hill, one of the towering sand dunes which characterise the Rub Al Khali or Empty Quarter.

The next three days brings dramatic action in the desert before the final leg on Friday takes the survivors north to the finish at Dubai International Marine Club at 4.30pm.

An innovative tracking system will create an unprecedented level of security for more than 127 prototype cars, modified four-wheel drive vehicles, bikes and trucks as they take on some of the most dramatic and remote desert terrain in the Middle East.

While similar devices have been used on selected vehicles in previous events, it will be the first time that an advanced tracking system has provided total cover in a World Championship cross country rally, allowing rally officials to trace every move of the entire field and launch an immediate response to all emergencies.

Iritrack is a complete onboard system for tracking and safety by satellite with world coverage, and will be fitted on every car, bike and truck taking part. Linked to a satellite communications network operated by France Telecom, it works in the most remote areas on earth and is part of an ongoing investment to keep the Desert Challenge at the top in cross country rallying.

The event has expanded from four to five days of competitive rallying this year in line with plans by the FIA, motor sport's world governing body, to upgrade the existing World Cup series and create a calendar of World Championship super events. The likelihood is that each round would be required to stretch to a minimum of six days of competitive off-road rallying in a bid to establish greater consistency between events and ensure the support of the major manufacturers' teams.

-totalcompr-

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