This year’s Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al Attiyah and defending champion Vladimir Vasilyev will spearhead a powerful seven-car entry by the all-conquering X-Raid team in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED BY Nissan.
Argentina’s Orland Terranova and Lucio Alvarez, Dutchman Erik Van Loon, German Stephan Schott and Kazakhstan’s Aidyn Rakhimbayev will drive the five other ALL4 Racing Minis entered by the German-based X-Raid team.
Al Attiyah, who secured his second Dakar Rally title in South America in January, will be aiming to add to his 2008 Desert Challenge victory in partnership with Frenchman Mathieu Baumel in the second round of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies.
The Russian paring of Vasilyev and co-driver Konstantin Zhilstov will be returning to the UAE to defend the title they won by more than 47 minutes last April as the Desert Challenge marks its 25th anniversary from 28 March to 2 April.
The X-Raid dominance of cross country rallying is emphasised by the fact that they secured four out of the top five finishing spots in this year’s Dakar Rally, with all of their nine cars entered finishing in the top 22.
They also scored rally wins in Qatar, Spain, Poland, Morocco, Portugal and Peru last year while Vasilyev captured the World Cup drivers’ crown.
“Sven Quandt and his X-Raid organisation are great friends of the Desert Challenge, and we’re delighted to welcome such a powerful entry by the team for our 25th anniversary event,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers.
“Their support for the Desert Challenge has grown over the years, emphasing how important the event is to the world’s top cross country rally teams.
Terranova will be partnered by fellow-Argentine Bernardo Graue, Van Loon by compatriot Wouter Rosegaar, Schott by fellow-German Holm Schmidt, Rakhimbayev by Russian co-driver Anton Nikolaev, and Alvarez by Spain’s Gabriel Moiset.
Also part of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes, the 25th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge takes place under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in the Western region.
The event gets under way with a super special spectator stage at Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday afternoon, 28 March.
The following day sees the first of five dramatic special stages taking an international procession of cars, bikes and quads on a demanding route among the towering dunes and sabkha plains of the UAE’s Western Region of Al Garbia.