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This is the single-news section of the news "Offroad & Motorsports". To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Challenging 2,000 km route.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge promises a new, challenging route through the Abu Dhabi desert, according to Mohammed Ben Sulayem, FIA Vice President of Sport, President of the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) and Chairman of the Organising Committee.

He said that this year's event covers 2,000 kilometres and opens with an entry of 29 cars, 34 bikes, 11 quads and two trucks.

Interest in the opening round of both the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup and FIM Cross-Country World Championship has been bolstered by the exciting tie-in with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA). The Middle East’s premier off-road motor sport event is seen by many as a perfect opportunity for Abu Dhabi to showcase its goal of becoming a world-leading venue for motor sport.

ADTA's Deputy Director General Tourism Operations, Ahmed Hussein said: "Competitors are set to cross some of the most spectacular terrain in Abu Dhabi over the next few days.

"The emirate offers quite diverse landscape and we are delighted that the world's media and international motor sport competitors will be able to see areas of Abu Dhabi that are rarely seen."

The competitive action for the 2009 Desert Challenge will get underway from 4pm on Sunday (March 22) with a two-kilometre super special stage in Abu Dhabi, in the vicinity of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club.

Sylayem explained that this spectator stage is crucial to the starting order for drivers and riders heading into the first desert stage on Monday morning. The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2009 ceremonial start is from the landmark Emirates Palace hotel at 09.30am (Monday March 23).

The Rotana opening leg features two passage controls at the 101km and 169km points and runs for 270.60km across the high-speed sand flats that have become synonymous with the first stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge between Al Dafra and the finish en route to Liwa.

A 118km road section then guides teams from the stage finish to the overnight bivouac at Tal Mureeb, which will become the event’s base for four nights surrounded by the dunescapes of the Rub Al Khali, the Empty Quarter.

Several of the leading riders prefer to start the opening stage further down the field and follow their rivals through the early kilometres. “It is not always the best decision to open the stage on the first day,” said defending bikes’ champion Cyril Despres. “Tactics often come into play on the early stages.”

Legs two, three and four feature daunting loop stages through the Rub Al Khali with the specials starting shortly after day break for the motorcycle riders to avoid the obvious effects of the heat of the midday sun. The stages cross remote gatch tracks, vast oceans of sand and tricky dune complexes, where rising temperatures cause the sand to soften and can easily trap stricken rally vehicles.

Competitors will leave the bivouac for leg two on Tuesday from 06.30am and head into a 296.75km ADNOC-backed selective section. There will be four passage controls at 70km, 131km, 160km and 229km to enable event officials to monitor competitors’ progress through the desert. This stage finishes close to the bivouac.

Leg three on Wednesday (March 25) features the punishing 340.60km Nissan-sponsored special through the Empty Quarter. It is arguably the most difficult of the entire event and also features four passage controls at the 74km, 167km, 221km and 284km points, before finishing close to the camp at Tal Mureeb.

The penultimate selective section on Thursday (March 26t) starts six kilometres from the bivouac, runs for 314.95km and finishes 122km from the overnight halt. Sponsored by Hertz, the stage also has four desert passage controls at the 78km, 109km, 154km and 243km points and starts at 06.45hrs - around 20 minutes after sunrise.

The final day of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has been heavily revised and no longer features the traditional two final stages on the run into Dubai. There will only be one 275.93km special, starting 83km from the bivouac and finishing 60.44km from the location of the ceremonial finish at the ADIMSC. The Oasis-backed stage features three passage controls at the 53km, 166km and 209km points and kicks off at 06.30am.

Sulayem said that it is all systems go for the new-look event and that he expects the competition for a podium place to be close. He has just returned from an FIA World Sport Council meeting in Paris. “I am delighted to welcome everyone to Abu Dhabi and wish them every success.

"I am expecting one of the closest events in the 19-year history of the Desert Challenge. All the race categories look absolutely wide open,” he concluded.

The 2009 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has the backing of key players, including the event's title sponsor, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), Nissan, ADNOC, Beach Rotana - Abu Dhabi, etisalat, Explorer, Hertz, Lambda Electronics, Oasis Water, TAG Heuer, and the Rally host, ADIMSC.

2009/03/21 | 04:23 CET | Editor: MR/Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge/Rita Konya

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