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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: Sheikh Mohammed put Rally on top of the world.

H.H.Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was saluted today for his key role in creating the Middle East’s first World Championship motor sport event in the Emirates. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, founder of the UAE Desert Challenge, said Sheikh Mohammed’s vision and drive has been a major factor behind the success of the event which is attracting a powerful international line up of rallying talent and machinery for its 18th edition later this month.

"His Highness has been the real driving force behind the Desert Challenge as patron for the event from the very beginning," said Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE. "Without his generous support the event would not have got off the ground in the first place.

"When I first told Sheikh Mohammed that we were planning to launch the event in 1991 he was very enthusiastic and gave his full backing. He has been behind us ever since, as he has been with so many other events which have made the UAE one of the most exciting sporting venues in the world."

In contrast to the first Desert Challenge, which attracted an entry of 30 drivers, mostly from the UAE, this year’s event, sponsored by Nakheel and Nissan Middle East, is drawing a mighty international line-up of more than 160 competitors from around 30 countries worldwide.

Once again the event marks the climax of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup for cars and trucks, which it joined for the first time in 1993, and the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes, which first welcomed the Desert Challenge to its calendar in 1998.

In its first running as a World Cup event 15 years ago, the Desert Challenge was won by Qatar’s former Middle East rally champion, Saeed Al Hajri.

The 1993 season was also memorable for two other Qataris, Sheikh Hamad Al Thani and Nasser Khalifa Al Attiyah, who finished in a dead heat on points in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship that year, the first time this had ever happened.

At the end of the final round in Dubai, Sheikh Hamad clinched the title on a countback, having won the longest rally in the championship earlier in the season in Jordan, and 15 years on he returns to the UAE for his latest tilt at the Desert Challenge, a completely different proposition to the more conventional regional championship rallies. He drives one of a number of Nissan Patrols entered for the spectacular desert adventure.

Beginning at 4pm on Sunday 26th October with a super special spectator stage in Dubai, the Desert Challenge has its ceremonial start from the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi at 9.30am the following morning.

Four gruelling special stages over the next four days are centred on the traditional Moreeb Hill bivouac, near the Liwa oasis, before the final stage sends the survivors to the finish at Dubai International Marine Club at 4.30pm on 31st October.

2008/10/25 | 12:29 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Tony Lewis

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