Public get a ringside seat as world's top drivers and riders tackle spectacular Prologue stage

Dubai, UAE, 8 October 2004: The stage is set for a UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge super show as Dubai gives a spectacular launch on Sunday afternoon to the event that sets the pace in World Cup and World Championship cross country rallying.

Starting at 4pm on Sunday at Jebel Ali Racecourse, the Nakheel Prologue brings together many of the world's top drivers and riders for an action-packed time trial sending a powerful international force of prototype cars, modified 4WDs, trucks and bikes around a specially-built two-kilometre track.

Admission is free, and with a big crowd of spectators expected, the Desert Challenge organisers have urged the public to set off early for the venue beside the Sheikh Zayed Road opposite Dubai Media City.

Brilliant French driver Stephane Peterhansel goes for his third successive victory in the event, with Mitsubishi team-mate Hiroshi Masuoka from Japan, and two former world rally champions, flying Finn Juha Kankkunen and Britain's Colin McRae in a powerful Nissan Pick-up, are also in the hunt for honours.

Kankkunen's Volkswagen team-mates, veteran French campaigner Bruno Saby and top German lady driver Jutta Kleinschmidt, along with McRae's fellow-Nissan driver Gregoire De Mevius from Belgium, also bring their international pedigree to the penultimate round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies.

With the event doubling up as the penultimate leg of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes, Norway's Pål Anders Ullevålseter could clinch the world title in the UAE. He has a big lead over Poland's Jacek Czachor and Spain's Marc Coma and, barring mechanical disasters, should be world champion by next Friday.

The high speed action at Jebel Ali Racecourse on Sunday beings at 3.30pm with a demonstration of the newly-launched AKOffroad Desert Racer AK40, designed for racing on the toughest terrain, built in Dubai, and raced by some of Europe's fastest drivers, as well as motor sport fanatic and major recording artist, Jamiroquai.

The real test for drivers and riders will come when the official start at the Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi on Monday morning launches the cars, bikes and trucks into five days of dramatic desert action in the Empty Quarter. But for spectators, Sunday's Nakheel Prologue is an event not to be missed.

Fittingly, an event bringing the world of cross country rallying to Dubai is being sponsored by Nakheel, the internationally acclaimed property developers who are creating The World in Dubai, as well as The Palm and other iconic projects grabbing international attention.

"The Prologue is a very important and exciting curtain-raiser for the rally, and we're delighted to have the support of Nakheel for an event which does a great deal to promote Dubai, and the UAE as a whole, around the world," said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, chairman of the organising committee.

The Desert Challenge 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 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, 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.