DESERT CHALLENGE POWERS TOWARDS BIG FUTURE WITH NISSAN BACKING
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the driving force behind the UAE Desert Challenge, pledged today that the event will continue to set the standard for World Championship cross country rallying in the years ahead.
Sulayem, chairman of the organising committee for the event which he launched in 1991, delivered the assurance after signing a new sponsorship agreement with Nissan Middle East which makes the Nissan Patrol the rally’s official car for a second year.
“We have quickly formed a close working partnership with Nissan and the support of a major manufacturer is not only appropriate but vital as we look to build on the success of the Desert Challenge and ensure the event has a bright future,” said the 14-times Middle East rally champion.
As a result of the new agreement a fleet of Nissan Patrols will be delivered to Dubai International Marine Club, the new permanent base for the event, final round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup for cars and trucks and the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.
“We’ll be putting them to good use across some of the most testing desert terrain in the world,” said Sulayem. “We need vehicles that can perform well in the toughest conditions and handle a wide variety of tasks in the overall staging of the event.”
Sulayem signed the new agreement in Dubai with Takeshi Nakajima, Deputy Managing Director of Nissan Middle East, who said: “Our commitment to the Desert Challenge emphasises our confidence that the event will go from strength to strength in the future.
“Some of the most experienced drivers and teams continue to choose Nissan for their challenge in top-class international cross country rallying and this is an overwhelming endorsement of how trustworthy Nissan vehicles are.”
Sulayem now expects to finalise at least one more major new sponsorship agreement for the Desert Challenge in the next few weeks.
“The event has a very high profile and is seen as a superb vehicle for promoting sponsors brands, products and services,” he said. “We have a number of parties showing major interest, and at the same time will shortly finalise an agreement with a specialist TV production company which will ensure that images of the event, the UAE, and our sponsors, reach a much wider regional and worldwide audience.”
Sulayem remains committed to attracting all the major manufacturers' teams, and the top drivers and riders from around the world, and at the same time wants to encourage more Middle East competitors to take on the best from overseas.
“The aim is to make the event bigger and better, and we’ll be looking for new ways to develop it as a spectacle,” he said.
While Bruno Saby’s victory in the Rallye d’Orient earlier this week clinched the World Cup drivers’ title for the veteran French rally star, there will still be a great deal at stake in the 15th edition of the UAE Desert Challenge, which takes place from 9-14 November.
“We’re very much a part of the World Cup series but at the same time the drivers and riders regard the Desert Challenge as a great event in its own right,” said Sulayem. “It’s a big test for man and machine, and winning it means a lot. This is one off the reasons why we attract one of the strongest fields in cross country rallying, and it will be no different this time.”