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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: Rally set for Jebel Ali Super Show.

The 18th edition of the UAE Desert Challenge comes to life in spectacular fashion on Sunday with a new-look super special spectator stage promising some dramatic action at Jebel Ali. Rally enthusiasts will have a grandstand view as the powerful line-up of 122 cars, bikes, quads and trucks roar away on the newly created 2km super stage stage beside the karting track adjacent to Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa.

Starting at 4pm, the super stage is the curtain raiser for an event which doubles up as the final round of both the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and trucks, and the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.

Sponsored by Nakheel and Nissan Middle East, the Desert Challenge has its ceremonial start at 9.30am on Monday from the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi. The impressive international procession of rally machinery then heads away from the UAE capital for five days of pulsating special stage action testing competitors, and their vehicles, to the limit.

"We have all the ingredients for a very exciting and highly competitive event which is the culmination of a great year round team effort," said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE and the event founder, at an official press conference at Dubai International Marine Club, the rally’s official HQ, on Sunday.

"Once again, our priority is the safety of all competitors, and we’re indebted to the local authorities and police in the UAE for their help in safeguarding."

Over the years the event has consistently set the standard for competitor safety, with a full-scale operation supported by the UAE Ministry of Interior and Dubai Police involving helicopters, ambulances and emergency medical staff, swinging into action as the world’s top drivers and riders tackle some of the toughest desert terrain in the Middle East.

For the second year in succession the Desert Challenge safety plan has been given a new dimension by the involvement of Dubai Civil Defence, which is providing specialist personnel and equipment never seen before in an FIA World Cup or FIM World Championship event. The Dubai Ports and Customs and Dubai immigration authorities also provide invaluable support to ease the movement of vehicles in and out of the country.

Sulayem believes that, with a number of world titles at stake and a powerful line-up of rallying talent and machinery from around the globe now primed for action, this year’s Desert Challenge could be a classic event.

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, Tag Heuer, FedEx, Dubai International Marine Club and Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina.

The event is also supported for the first time this year by Explorer Publishing, the region’s leading off-road maps publisher which has been named the official map supplier for the rally. The company has developed individual stage overview maps for competitors as well as the Desert Challenge overview map for spectators.

The six-day, 2,197-km event, covering some of the toughest desert terrain in the Middle East, has not been won by an Arab driver since 1993, although Qatar’s reigning FIA Middle East Rally champion, Nasser Al-Attiyah, wants to change that.

Al-Attiyah starts as the firm favourite in his new BMW X3, and he is also aiming to climb from fourth place in the FIA World Cup drivers’ title race to claim the crown in the absence of the three men ahead of him.

The World Cup production class title will be decided in a battle between two Nissan Patrols, the official vehicle for the event. Kazakhstan’s Artur Ardavichus starts the Desert Challenge holding a four-point lead over Russian Andrey Ivanov. Meanwhile, Lithuania’s Aureijilus Petraitis takes his Oscar into action still holding a mathematical chance of claiming the World Cup Two Wheel Drive Trophy.

Spain’s Marc Coma aims to outpace KTM team-mate and four-times Desert Challenge winner Cyril Despres of France to complete a hat-trick of bikes triumphs in the UAE. While new regulations this year exclude the powerful KTM works riders from the World Championship, five FIM world titles will be decided in the UAE

Poland’s Marek Dabrowski is on course to clinch the over 450cc production class crown, while compatriot Jacek Czachor has a clear path to the 450cc production title. But Italian Oscar Polli faces a nervous few days as he tries to hold off another Polish rider, Jakub Przygonski, who trails him by just four points in the over 450cc Rally Sport tussle.

Spain’s Victor Rivera has the 450cc Rally Sport title within his grasp, but while Brazilian leader Robert Nahas misses the last round, Danish rider Ivan Reedtz-Thott has the chance to rise from sixth place to become 2008 world quads champion.

The majority of the action again centres on the giant Moreeb Hill sand dune in the Liwa oasis, the event’s traditional desert base, which launches the event’s three most demanding special stages on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, before the final two stages lead to the finish at DIMC at 4.30pm on Friday.

2008/10/27 | 13:09 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Tamer Abdel Khalek

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