Dubai’s Khalifa Al-Mutaiwei returns to the scene of some of his greatest performances when he and German co-driver Andreas Schulz tackle next week’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, round two of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
Organised by the Automobile Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates (ATC UAE), Al-Mutaiwei lines up in a quality field for one of the most demanding rounds of the championship, where many famous names have graced the podium in the 22 years that the event has run out of the UAE.
The Fazza Rally Team driver arrives at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi – the location for pre-event formalities – feeling confident after an encouraging return to rallying action at the Italian Baja two weeks ago. The Emirati finished seventh overall in the European event, but knows that he could have reached the podium in his X-raid Mini All4 Racing had it not been for a delay on the first day.
“Certainly I am excited to be taking part in the Desert Challenge, because I am competing in my home country and with my people. It is the beginning of the journey and the second step after the Italian Baja. I don’t have precise goals before the event.
“I anticipate it to be full of surprises. Taking into consideration that it is a long event, I know that there are more points at stake than there were in Italy. I am here not to defend or to fight to win, though I shall do my best.”
The 40-year-old’s return to the FIA World Cup scene – where he clinched a memorable title back in 2004 – is being put together under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai.
Administration and scrutineering take place on Friday and Saturday at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi and the ceremonial start and timed super special stage get proceedings underway from 15.00hrs on Sunday (April 1).
The meat of the action takes place over five days in the Arabian desert, with the event centralised at the Qasr Al-Sarab bivouac.
The first desert stage on Monday takes teams from Abu Dhabi to the bivouac via a 285.05km Al-Gharbia selective section and the subsequent three days involve loops around the bivouac through the Rub Al-Khali (Empty Quarter), with the fifth and final day guiding teams back to the finish in Abu Dhabi at 16.30hrs on Friday, April 6th.