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UAE Desert Challenge 2008 Special-Newssection (FIA Cross Country Worldcup)

This is the single-news section of the special of the UAE Desert Challenge 2008, last round of the FIA Worldcup for Cross Country Rallys. To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

UAE Desert Challenge: Abu Dhabi gives big launch to Desert Challenge.

The 2008 UAE Desert Challenge began in earnest today (Monday), setting the stage for a dramatic climax to the international cross country rally calendar. Following yesterday’s super special spectator stage in Jebel Ali, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally founder, flagged away the 115 cars bikes and trucks from the official start at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.

The first of 75 riders to leave the starting ramp was Portugal’s Ruben Faria who had been fastest on the super stage, the traditional curtain raiser for the event which is sponsored by Nakheel and Nissan Middle East.

Following the bikes away from the UAE capital were 40 cars and trucks, headed by Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah in a new BMW X3 who had been the quickest driver on the super stage.

Al Attiyah, the reigning FIA Middle East rally champion, is bidding to become the first Arab driver to win the Desert Challenge since fellow-countryman Saeed Al Hajri scored victory in the event back in 1993.

Partnered by top Swedish lady co-driver Tina Thorner, he is also hoping to clinch the drivers title in the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, in which the Desert Challenge is the final round.

After the ceremonial start, the competitors were tackling the first major competitive section of the rally, the 281-km Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority Special Stage 1, before heading for the Moreeb Hill bivouac, the rally’s desert base in the Liwa oasis for the next four nights.

Taking place under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Desert Challenge is also sponsored by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, ADNOC, Emarat, Hertz UAE, Oasis Water, Inmarsat, Arasca Medical Equipment, Mashreq Bank, Messina Line, Tag Heuer, FedEx, Dubai International Marine Club and Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina, the official hotel.

While Al Attiyah started as the hot favourite for overall victory and the main World Cup drivers’ crown, Kazakhstan’s current leader in the production class, Artur Ardavichus, was hoping to avoid any last round disasters and stay ahead of Russian Andrey Ivanov, who trails him by just four points.

Spain’s Marc Coma, bidding for a hat-trick of Desert Challenge bikes victories, faces a big challenge from his KTM team-mate, French star Cyril Despres, a four-times winner in the UAE. Tomorrow’s (Tuesday) 296-km Nakheel Special Stage 2 gets under way at 7.30am and heads towards a dramatic finish among the high dunes near Moreeb Hill.

2008/10/27 | 15:14 CET | Editor: MR/HS/UAE DC/Tamer Abdel Khalek

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