The UAE’s Yahya Al Helei has his sights set on victory in this year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge after carrying home the runner up trophy for the second year running in 2009.
The experienced Emirati driver has numerous top six finishes under his belt and is out to clinch a victory to beat his two-event reign as second overall. Recently, he claimed second place again, this time in the T2 category at the Saudi Ha’il Baja. He finished sixth overall
Al Helei usually co-drives with fellow Emirati, Khalid Al Kendi, but as he fights for the crown he has thrown a curved ball and appointed his eighteen year old son, Mansour, as his co-driver. This will be Mansour’s inaugural rally.
“This year marks the nineteenth year of my participation in Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and I am so proud that my son will be beside me, navigating me through the tough terrain of the Western Region. He knows the sands well; the desert is in his blood. I am safe in his hands,” said Al Helei.
Al Helei said that Mansour has a real passion for cross-country competition. “I know that I am his father, but truly, Mansour has the ability to be a rally great – one of the best drivers in the world.”
Age aside, Mansour is no stranger to Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. In past events, he has led Yahya’s service team. “I am so looking forward competing with the best of the best this year, and I couldn’t ask for a better mentor than my dad.”
Mansour has clocked up more than 5,000 kilometres of desert driving. This year’s Desert Challenge will add another 2,000km to that ticket, and the father-and-son duo is again competing in a Nissan Patrol. The vehicle has recently undergone a complete makeover at UAE’s specialist garage, Powertech.
The six-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 with the Super Special Stage at Al Forsan International Sports Resort.
The competitive desert section kicks off early on March 28, with five legs over five days to finish on April 1.
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 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. The event is the season-opening round of the FIA Cross-Country Rallies World Cup and 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. It has the full backing of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA).
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