Published February 26th, 2009 - 09:57 GMT

ADTA Partners ATCUAE for Cross-Country Rally Revamp

The UAE Desert Challenge, one of the world’s most prestigious international cross country motor rallies, has entered a new era.

The five-day motor sport spectacular is now titled the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, with the race being staged in its entirety across Abu Dhabi emirate. The event is now under the auspices of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), with the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) retaining its event organisational role.

The inaugural Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge - the season-opening round of both the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup and the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship - will run from March 22-27th, 2009 and further strengthen Abu Dhabi’s credentials as a tourism destination of distinction and major sporting events hub.

While previous Desert Challenges have seen motorbike, quad-bike, four wheel and truck competitors battle cross-emirate stages, the event has, in recent years, gradually migrated towards a majority routing through Abu Dhabi’s majestic desert areas.

ADTA, as part of its ownership of, and commitment to, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – is examining Emirati candidates for Team Abu Dhabi, a local outfit which it intends to enter in next month’s event.

During the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, competitors will face two days of documentation and scrutinising (Friday 20 and Saturday 21 March), before a Super Special Stage in the UAE capital (Sunday 22 March) gets the action underway.  With the final route still to be unveiled, five days (Monday 23 – Friday 27 March) in the Liwa Desert and Moreeb area of the Empty Quarter await the field.

ADTA is confident that the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will significantly bolster the emirate’s already extensive international events portfolio.

“The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is another strategic vehicle in our drive to showcase the rich diversity of Abu Dhabi’s natural terrain to a global audience. The event will also reinforce our growing reputation as a world-class sporting and major events destination, ” said HE Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General, ADTA.

ADTA also believes the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will play a key role in securing a WRC round for the emirate.

With Abu Dhabi gearing up to host its November Formula One Grand Prix debut, ADTA has already orchestrated links to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) via its BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team sponsorship, the UAE’s WRC driver, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Team Abu Dhabi - the FIA Middle East Rally Championship outfit.

“Abu Dhabi has built a  strong track record over the years for staging motor sports events. The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will further demonstrate the emirate’s ability and readiness to host more world-class motor-sports events such as the WRC Series,” said Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General Tourism Operations, ADTA.

The ATCUAE is organising and managing the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, with UAE rally pioneer Mohammed Ben Sulayem – who has 18 years experience in facilitating the event’s huge logistical requirements – playing a key role within the Organising Committee.

“ADTA’s commitment to the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will certainly take the event’s international stature to a whole new level and further attest to the emirate’s capabilities in staging world-class motorsports events,” said Ben Sulayem, ATCUAE President and FIA Vice-President.

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