The world’s leading cross country rally drivers and riders are again shaping up to tackle the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED BY Nissan, and they will rely on a big land and air operation as well as their own skill and experience to survive one of motor sport’s most extreme tests.
Crossing some of the most demanding desert terrain on earth in the Western Region of Al Garbia, with competitive stages winding on for more than 250km across giant dunes, provides a huge examination for even the most sturdy competitors and rally machinery.
Equally, the event presents a major logistical challenge for the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, whose main priority once again is the safety of more than 150 competitors assembling in the UAE for the 26th edition of the event from 2-7 April.
Dehydration and fatigue are the biggest threats, and more than 10 per cent of those who start will need some form of medical assistance as the Desert Challenge takes on the Rub Al Khali.
Playing a vital role, Abu Dhabi Aviation, the Middle East’s largest commercial helicopter operator, will provide the potentially life-saving aerial Search And Rescue (SAR) support for the medical crews who will be on permanent standby to be carried to the aid of competitors in trouble.
Another crucial link in the operation is provided by ADNOC, which has its work cut out to deliver more than 25,000 litres of fuel – aviation fuel for the helicopters and petrol and diesel for the cars, bikes and support vehicles.
In order to minimise flying time and guarantee efficient rescue operations, ADNOC is establishing mobile refuelling bases in the desert as well as fixed refuelling bases at the bivouac, the rally’s desert base for four nights, and in Madinat Zayed.
“Without the support of Abu Dhabi Aviation and ADNOC the event could simply not take place,” said ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the rally founder. “For many years now they have helped us to ensure a very high level of safety for competitors, volunteers, and all others involved in the event. This is always our No. 1 priority.”
In recent years the ATCUAE has commissioned research to discover more about how dehydration and fatigue affects competitors, and been quick to act on the findings. Drivers and riders reaching the end of one of this year’s five exhausting desert stages will be able to recuperate in an air conditioned recovery unit set up at the bivouac, located close to the Qasr Al Sarab Resort.
Taking place under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western region, the 26th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge gets under way with a super special spectator stage at Al Forsan Off-Road Race of Champions Circuit in Abu Dhabi on 2 April, before heading out into the Rub Al Khali.
The Nissan Patrol, the “Hero of All terrain in Life”, is positioned for the 13th year as the official vehicle of the event. The line-up of strategic partners includes the Ruler’s Court in the Western Region, Western Region Municipality, Abu Dhabi Municipality, the UAE Army, Abu Dhabi Police, National Ambulance Service, Nissan, Yas Marina Circuit, ADNOC, Abu Dhabi Aviation, Al Ain Mineral Water, Abu Dhabi Waste Management, Rotana and Centro Hotels – Yas Island, Qasr Al Sarab Resort.