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Full Speed Ahead For Desert Challenge 30th Anniversary
Ben Sulayem: One of Middle East’s biggest motor sport success stories set for another classic cross country rally episode

Preparations are in full swing for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge as the well-known cross country rally heads for its 30th anniversary later this month.

Taking place from 21-26 March, the Desert Challenge forms the second round of the 2020 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and buggies and the opening round of this year’s FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship for bikes and quads.

“We are making ready for the Desert Challenge with most dedication and look forward to making this a memorable 30th anniversary edition of the event,” stated Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Emirates Motorsports Organization, the rally organizers, and FIA Vice President for Sport.

“We are in regular contact with the government authorities concerning fitness troubles springing up from the coronavirus outbreak, and are looking at all official guidelines and protocols associated to preventative measures and risk reduction at all times.

“The health and safety of competitors, support teams, officials, volunteers and rally enthusiasts attracted by the event is constantly a top priority.”

Detailed fitness suggestions have been laid out for the Desert Challenge by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sean Petherbridge who heads a highly skilled medical group for the event, the bulk of which takes place in the isolation of the Al Dhafra region’s dramatic desert landscape.

The 30th anniversary version of the event will feature a effective global line-up of top drivers and riders who face another classic test of skill and persistence over a spectacular route sweeping via the region’s giant dunes and sabkha plains.

Among the leading challengers will be the 2017 and 2018 winners, the UAE’s Khalid Al Qassimi and Czech Martin Prokop, 2018 FIA World Cup champion Jakub Przygonski, and Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi, positioned fourth in the recent Dakar Rally.

Competition in the bikes class will be intense, with Honda stars Joan Barreda of Spain, Argentina’s Kevin Benavides and South African Aaron Mare, as well as the UAE’s Mohammed Al Balooshi, already confirmed, and the KTM, Husqvarna and Yamaha factory groups combined due to name another eight top riders shortly.

The rally will be based at Yas Marina Circuit, and competitors begin arriving at the Rally HQ on Friday 20 March for official documentation and scrutineering of all vehicles before the ceremonial begin at 7.00pm the following day.

The rally moves out from the UAE capital into the Al Dhafra Region the next morning, and for five nights will be based at a purpose-built bivouac. The event finishes back at Yas Marina Circuit at 5.00pm on Thursday 26 March.

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