UAE Desert Challenge moves to new home

UAE DESERT CHALLENGE MOVES TO NEW HOME AS SABY AIMS TO BUILD ON WORLD CUP LEAD Dubai, UAE, 21 June 2005: As French star Bruno Saby looks to build on his lead in the 2005 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup in Turkey later this month, preparations...

UAE DESERT CHALLENGE MOVES TO NEW HOME AS SABY AIMS TO BUILD ON WORLD CUP LEAD

Dubai, UAE, 21 June 2005: As French star Bruno Saby looks to build on his lead in the 2005 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup in Turkey later this month, preparations are now well under way to give the six-round series a big climax in the UAE in November.

The UAE Desert Challenge, which gave Saby one of his earliest World Cup victories in 1996, this week completed its move to new permanent headquarters at Dubai International Marine Club from where the final planning of this year's event will now take place.

A leading venue for World Championship powerboat racing and international sailing, DIMC's superb range of facilities make it a highly versatile and practical event location.

With the adjacent Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina hosting competitors, officials and media as the official hotel, DIMC is an ideal base for the Desert Challenge, which is sponsored by Nissan, and Nakheel, Dubai's premier real estate developer.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, chairman of the rally organising committee, and Saeed Hareb, managing director of DIMC, are united in their commitment to keep the event at the forefront of the international cross country rallying.

"Saeed is as determined as I am to make sure that the Desert Challenge keeps pace with the changes taking place in cross country rallying, and stays in the sport's top flight," said Sulayem, the 14-times Middle East rally champion.

"Our priorities are to produce an exciting event featuring all the leading manufacturers' teams, the top drivers and riders from around the world, and to attract more from the Middle East, and at the same time set the highest standards in safety for competitors."

Hareb, one of the most influential figures in Class 1 World Championship powerboat racing and the driving force behind the prestigious new Maktoum Sailing Trophy, said: "We have enjoyed hosting the Desert Challenge in recent years and are very happy to have welcomed the event to its new permanent base here."

The influence of the Desert Challenge has been highlighted by the compulsory introduction into this year's World Cup series of an innovative tracking system pioneered in the UAE event.

Iritrack allows rally officials to monitor the progress of vehicles throughout an event in the most remote areas, and to launch an immediate response to emergencies. The system had been used only on selected vehicles in previous events before last year's Desert Challenge when it provided total cover in a World Championship rally for the first time.

This year Sulayem is introducing an additional safety device known as Sentinel, which allows competitors in trouble to transmit an alert to fellow drivers and riders within a 300 metre radius with a simple press of the horn.

There have been no problems in the World Cup series so far this year for Saby, who won two of the first three rounds in Argentina and Morocco in his Volkswagen Taureg and finished second in Tunisia.

He now takes a 22-point lead over team-mate Jutta Kleinschmidt into round four, the Rallye d'Orient, starting in Turkey on 26th June.

Meanwhile Spain's Isidre Esteve, winner of the bikes title in last year's Desert Challenge, is neck and neck with fellow-countryman Marco Coma in the race for this year's Cross Country Rallies World Championship, also after three rounds.

<pre> 2005 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup, leading positions after 3 of 6 rounds (rounds to date in Argentina, Tunisia and Morocco):

1.  Bruno Saby                  (F)     Volkswagen      41
2.  Jutta Kleinshmidt           (D)     Volkswagen      19
3.  Luc Alphand                 (F)     Mitsubishi      15
4.  Stephane Peterhansel        (F)     Mitsubishi      11
5.  Giniel De Villiers          (SA)    Volkswagen      11
6.  Joan Roma                   (SPA)   Mitsubishi      10
7.  Ronan Chabot                (FR)                     9
8.  Serguei Sukhovenko          (RU)                     8
9.  Jean-Louis Schlessher       (F)     Schlesser Ford   8
10. Hiroshi Masuoka             (J)     Mitsubishi       7

2005 Cross Country Rallies World Championship, leading positions after 3 of 6 rounds:

1.  Isidre Esteve       (SPA)   KTM     47
2.  Marc Coma           (SPA)   KTM     47
3.  Jose M.Pellicer     (SPA)   KTM     38
4.  Cyril Despres       (FRA)   KTM     25
5.  Andy Grider         (USA)           22
6.  David Casteau       (FRA)           20
7.  Chris Blats         (USA)   KTM     20
8.  Jerome Renaud       (FRA)   KTM     18
9.  Rodrigo Moreny      (CHL)           18
10. Alessandro Bettini  (ITA)   Honda   16

-www.totalcompr.com

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About this article
Series Cross-Country Rally
Drivers Luc Alphand , Jutta Kleinschmidt , Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Cyril Despres , Bruno Saby , Marc Coma , Andy Grider , Ronan Chabot