MERC: UAE Dubai expands toward new look

UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge Expands Towards Place in New-Look World Championship Dubai, UAE, 17 August 2004: The UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge will take its first steps later this year towards securing a place for the Middle East in a...

UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge Expands Towards Place in New-Look World Championship

Dubai, UAE, 17 August 2004: The UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge will take its first steps later this year towards securing a place for the Middle East in a new-look World Championship of cross country rallying.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, chairman of the organising committee, announced today that the spectacular event will expand from four to five days of competition when it is staged for the 14th time in October.

The move is in line with plans by the FIA, motor sport's world governing body, to upgrade the existing World Cup for Cross Country Rallies and create a calendar of World Championship super events.

Taking place from October 11 -- 15, the 2004 UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge will be 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.

While no blueprint for a new World Championship has yet been finalised, the likelihood is that each round would be required to stretch to a minimum of six days of competitive off-road rallying. The major manufacturers' teams, such as Mitsubishi, Nissan, Ford and Volkswagen, are expected to have discussions on the format when they gather in Dubai before the start of the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge.

Their support for the proposed new World Championship is vital, and the FIA wants to establish greater consistency between events to ensure the major powers of off-road rallying are all on board.

"We're taking steps, one at a time, to ensure the Desert Challenge retains its place in the sport's top flight," said Sulayem, driving force behind the Marlboro-backed event from its inception in 1991. "In general, the current World Cup events must grow to keep pace with the demands of the new championship being planned, or be left behind."

Added Sulayem: "At present there's a big gap between the shorter, three-day events and the Dakar Rally which stretches over three weeks, is run outside the World Cup, but is seen by the manufacturers as the ultimate test. That gap must close to make the proposed World Championship attractive to the manufacturers and possibly allow for the inclusion of the Dakar Rally."

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.

Spectators will have a ringside view of the mighty World Cup prototypes, modified 4WD vehicles, trucks and motor bikes during an all-action Prologue in Dubai on October 10. From the official start at the Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi the following morning, the events 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 desert region. The next three days brings dramatic action in the Rub Al Khali or Empty Quarter, before the final leg on October 15 takes the survivors north to the finish at Dubai International Marine Club.

-Total Communications

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Series Cross-Country Rally , Other rally