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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: Cyril Despres scores 5th Victory in UAE.

Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah became the first Arab driver for 15 years to win the UAE Desert Challenge today while French rider Cyril Despres scored his fifth bikes title triumph in the spectacular event. Having dominated the 2,197-km six-day rally from start to finish in his prototype BMW X3, Al Attiyah- partnered by top Swedish lady co-driver, Tina Thorner, also clinched the drivers’ title in the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies.

He reached the finish in Dubai this afternoon holding a 4 hrs 27 mins winning margin over the UAE’s irrepressible Yahya Alhelei, who covered himself in glory by taking second place in a standard production class Nissan Patrol.

Finishing third in the event, which was sponsored by Nakheel and Nissan, was Russian driver Vladimir Chagin in one of the impressive Kamaz trucks. The top six was completed by Poland’s Krzysztof Holowczyc, in a Nissan Navara T1, UAE-based Joseph Rosso in a Nissan Pathfinder and Emirati driver Abdulla Alheraiz in a Nissan Patrol.

Given a clear path to victory when his KTM team-mate, Marc Coma, plunged from contention 24 hours earlier with clutch failure, Despres won the open bikes title by 14mins 14 secs from Chilean rider Francisco Lopez. UAE-based British rider James West finished third, ahead of Frenchman Alain Duclos, Spain’s Jordi Viladoms and Solvenian Miran Stanovnik.
Challenge 2

Leading the 450cc class overnight, UAE-based Irish rider Dave McBride saw his titles hopes shattered by a blown engine on the final day, and victory went to South African rider Sean Gaugain. He won by more than 44 minutes from Australian Alan Roberts, with Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues takikng third place ahead of another Aussie rider, Simon Pavey. UAE-based British rider Sean Linton and Emirati rider Khalid Al Falasi comleted the top six.

The quads title went to Frenchman Lionel Laine, who had a cushion of more than 12 minutes from the UAE’s Mohammed Al Shamsi, with another French rider, Eric Vergnes, finishing third.

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.

Becoming the first Arab driver to taste victory in the event since fellow Qatari Saeed Al Hajri in 1993, a delighted Al-Attiyah said at the finish: "Fantastic, I’m really happy. This week has gone very well. We have tried various set-ups with the car which have worked well, and the tyres we selected have been very good. It was a shame the other works teams decided to go to Morrocco for testing, it would have been exciting and closer competition with them here. Taking part in the Desert Challenge has for us been the testing ground for the car."

Al Helei has competed in each Desert Challenge since the event was launched in 1991 by Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE. While second place in a standard Nissan Patrol was a superb performance, he believes he can go one better, if he can attract sufficient sponsorship.

"I’m really, really happy to finish in this position," he said. "It’s been a hard rally, one which you need experience to cover the stages. I hope to win next year, and I’m looking for a sponsor who will care and support local drivers."

"There are a lot of companies that come here and make a lot of money, and it would be nice for them to support this sport. Experience is more important in the Desert Challenge than expensive factory cars, so I’m pleased to have passed so many other drivers. I’m very happy for Nasser to win this event.

Celebrating his fifth Desert Challenge triumph in eight years, Despres said: "It’s really amazing. I am really, really happy. Today was very fast and I didn’t push myself too hard because I didn’t want any problems. This is definitely the best rally, especially with all the support and the reassurance of the rescue teams. They may have moved the Dakar to another country, but please do not move the Desert Challenge because it is so unique."

2008/11/03 | 14:01 CET | Editor: MR/HS/UAE DC

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