DESERT CHALLENGE BUILDS ON THE WORLD STAGE
Dubai Waterfront backs rally as Sulayem prepares to welcome back French ace Despres for world title showdown
Dubai, UAE, 15 September 2005: Another World Championship title looks certain to be decided in the UAE Desert Challenge in November when the event will spotlight the spectacular developments making the country a unique destination.
Mohammed Bin Sulayem, chairman of the organising committee, today signed a new co-sponsorship agreement with Dubai Waterfront, an 81 million square metre development by major developers Nakheel, and promised to make the 15th edition of the rally a landmark occasion.
Said Sulayem: "We're going to have a world-class line-up of drivers and riders, and the support of Dubai Waterfront will ensure that the rally, and the country, are seen by a bigger than ever worldwide audience in our 15th year. It will be a very special event."
The announcement of Dubai Waterfront's backing for the Desert Challenge coincides with Sulayem's appointment of an official television production partner to maximise TV coverage as top French rider Cyril Despres aims for a fourth bikes victory in the UAE to secure a world title success.
Dramatic action from the notorious Empty Quarter will go worldwide alongside images of Dubai Waterfront - the largest waterfront development in the world that will transform the south-western part of Dubai - and others focusing on UAE culture and traditions.
"We're very happy to be offering our support for the Desert Challenge" said Khaled Al Huraimel, General Manager of Madinat Al Arab, the first phase and downtown hub of Dubai Waterfront. "This a unique event in that it gives competitors, media, spectators and viewers from around the world a close-up view of Dubai, and shows them so many other new and traditional aspects of the UAE." Challenge 2 French ace Despres, who won the Desert Challenge bikes crown three years running from 2001, is likely to make a welcome return to the UAE where he could clinch the 2005 Cross Country Rallies World Championship.
He withdrew from the event last year following the tragic death of his team- mate, fellow- Frenchman Richard Sainct, in Egypt's Pharaohs' Rally. Norway's Pål Anders Ullevålseter went on to succeed Despres as world champion with third place in the UAE.
With the penultimate round of the series taking place in Egypt later this month, Despres holds a slender three-point lead from last year's Desert Challenge bikes winner, Isidre Esteve, and compatriot Marc Coma, and the trio could face a classic UAE showdown.
While Bruno Saby has already wrapped up the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup drivers' title for the Volkswagen works team, at least two Volkswagen Race-Touaregs are expected to contest the Desert Challenge. Volkswagen will shortly confirm its driver line-up from between Saby, Jutta Kleinschmidt, Giniel de Villiers and two-times former world rally champion Carlos Sainz.
<pre> 2005 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup leading positions after t of 6 rounds: 1. Bruno Saby (F) Volkswagen 56 2. Giniel De Villiers (SA) Volkswagen 22 3. Jutta Kleinshmidt (D) Volkswagen 19 4. Luc Alphand (F) Mitsubishi 15 4. Jean-Louis Schlessher (F) Schlesser Ford 15 6. Ronan Chabot (FR) 12
2005 Cross Country Rallies World Championship, leading positions after 4 of 6 rounds: 1. Cyril Despres (FRA) KTM 50 2. Isidre Esteve (SPA) KTM 47 2. Marc Coma (SPA) KTM 47 4. David Casteau (FRA) 42 5. Rodrigo Moreno (CHL) 40 6. Jose M.Pellicer (SPA) KTM 38