Dubai: Mitsubishi UAE Desert Challenge preview

French ace Peterhansel poised for bid to score fifth victory in UAE with World Cup title still up for grabs Dubai, UAE, 18 August 2004: Mitsubishi, one of the major powers of off-road rallying, will attempt to clinch a hat-trick of victories...

French ace Peterhansel poised for bid to score fifth victory in UAE with World Cup title still up for grabs

Dubai, UAE, 18 August 2004: Mitsubishi, one of the major powers of off-road rallying, will attempt to clinch a hat-trick of victories in the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge in October.

While the mighty Japanese manufacturer has yet to decide on its final team line-up, it seems certain that French ace Stephane Peterhansel will be chasing a third straight win in the UAE during the penultimate round of the 2004 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies on October 11 -- 15.

A decision will be made soon on whether to send both Peterhansel and Japanese star Hiroshi Masuoka in two identical versions of the Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution, which has won four out of five rounds in the World Cup series this year.

"Whether they send one car or two, and whether it's Peterhansel or Masuoka, they always take this event very seriously and we can expect them to be making a big effort to win it for the third year in a row," said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, chairman of the organising committee for the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge.

While Peterhansel is contesting only selected World Cup events this year, a victory in the UAE could revive his chances of finishing the season as FIA World Cup champion, the title won last year by Portugal's Carlos Sousa.

In addition to Peterhansel's two wins, Qatar's Saeed Al Hajri (1993), and Frenchmen Bruno Saby (1996) and Jean-Pierre Fontenay (1998) have all driven Mitsubishis to victory in the UAE.

Taking place from October 11 -- 15, 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.

Partnered by co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret, Peterhansel has already won the two World Cup rounds this year, in Tunisia and Morocco, although Dubai's Khalifa Al Mutaiwei currently leads the World Cup standings after three 2nd place finishes, a 4th and a 6th.

In a brilliant career, the Frenchman has proved himself a master of off-road rallying both on two and four wheels, becoming a multiple world enduro champion and Dakar Rally bikes winner before grabbing the steering wheel in 1998. He won the bikes crown in the Desert Challenge in 1996 and 1997.

While Peterhansel could score his fifth overall win in the UAE, Masuoka has yet to find victory in the Desert Challenge, although he underlined his pedigree by winning the Dakar Rally for the second time in succession last year. Mitsubishi's two other World Cup wins this year have come from Sousa in Portugal and Spain, but he is concentrating on the European Baja championship, of which those two events are also a part.

The 2004 UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge is co-sponsored by the Government of Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Emarat, ADNOC, Oasis Water, Inmarsat, providers of satellite communications, Nissan, official vehicle supplier to the organisers, Konica copiers, website designers ANLONITS, as well as Dubai International Marine Club and Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina, the co-hosts for the event and the official Rally HQ.

Following a Prologue in Dubai on October 10, the new five-day format will be officially launched from the Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi the following morning.

-Mitsubishi-

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About this article
Series Cross-Country Rally
Drivers Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Jean-Pierre Fontenay , Carlos Sousa , Bruno Saby