President of the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) Mohammed Ben Sulayem today (March 22) named Nissan’s 2010 Patrol SUV as the official car of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge which gets underway later this week.
The all-new version of Nissan’s flagship Patrol SUV, dubbed The Hero of all Terrain, has been specifically designed for the Middle East market with over 13,000 hours of testing in Arabian deserts and roads and made its world premiere in Abu Dhabi in mid-February, the first-ever world premiere in the Middle East region by a Japanese automaker.
Sulayem, who is FIA Vice President, President of the UAE Motorcycle Club and Chairman of the Organising Committee of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, confirmed that the sponsorship agreement with Nissan Middle East makes Nissan Patrol the rally's official car for the seventh consecutive year, and Nissan “a firmly-established partner for the event,” the opening round of the FIA Cross Country World Cup and FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship.
“Nissan's continued support for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge plays a vital role in ensuring that the event continues to set the standard for World Championship cross country rallying in the years ahead.
"Indeed, the presence of the best vehicles from a major manufacturer is crucial as we look to build on the success of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and ensure the best vehicles test this tough terrain," said Sulayem.
“This partnership puts a fleet of Nissan Patrols at our disposal, and they are put to immediate good use as preparations for the event continue to take place in some of the most gruelling desert conditions in the Middle East.”
Sulayem signed the 2010 agreement at NMEF HQ in JAFZA with Atsuo Kosaka, Managing Director of Nissan Middle East, who said: "We are very happy to extend our working partnership with the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Our commitment to the event underscores our confidence that it will continue to go from strength-to-strength.
"Every year, some of the most experienced drivers and teams continue to use Nissans for top-class international cross country rallying, and this says a great deal about the reliability of Nissan vehicles," said Kosaka.
“This seventh generation Patrol, packed with world-first technologies and first-class luxury, comes into play when Nissan extends its partnership with the Challenge for a seventh consecutive year,” Kosaka added while noting the coincidence.
Leg three of the Challenge on Tuesday (March 30) will feature a punishing 300-plus-km Nissan-sponsored special stage through the Empty Quarter. It is arguably the most difficult of the entire event requiring competitors to go through four passage controls, before finishing close to the camp at Tal Moreeb.
The 2009 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge was a particularly successful one for the Patrol, with the UAE’s Yahya Al Helai finishing on the podium with a sensational second overall in his Nissan Patrol followed by fellow countrymen Abdullah Al Herais and Ali Al Shawi, also driving a Patrol.
Frenchman Joseph Rosso claimed sixth with his Nissan Pathfinder as the Japanese manufacturer filled four of the top six places in the overall standings in the car category.
After months of preparations, including a series of excursions by the route planning team into The Empty Quarter of Abu Dhabi’s Al Gharbia, or Western Region, Sulayem said he is confident that the 2010 edition will live up to its reputation for providing a stern but fair test for the world's top drivers and riders.
"Some of the competitors said that the stages last year were among the best they had ever come across, and we hope to give more of the same this year," said the 14-time Middle East rally champion. "Of course we want to get as many people to the finish as possible, but this will be five demanding days of cross country rallying at its very best," he added.The five-day competitive section of the cross-country motor sport spectacular, organised by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) with the full backing of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, opens in Abu Dhabi on March 27.The desert section runs from March 28-April 1, 2010 and is open to competitors driving cars and trucks complying with FIA T1, T2 and T4 technical regulations and motorcyclists and quads running under the auspices of the FIM.Once again the event will be the season-opening round of both the FIA Cross Country Rallies World Cup and the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship. The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has traditionally attracted a host of partners, and in 2010 these include Nissan, ADNOC, Al Ain Water, Crowne Plaza Yas Island, Explorer, FedEx, Tag Heuer and Thuraya.