Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Top off-roaders arrive ahead of thrilling showdown

Defending W2RC champion Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah looks to make it back-to-back driver and constructor titles for himself and Toyota Gazoo Racing this year

By Team KT

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Nasser Al Attiyah. — Supplied photo
Nasser Al Attiyah. — Supplied photo

Published: Thu 23 Feb 2023, 4:00 PM

Victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (ADDC) marks a highlight in cross-country rallying achievements. A host of the world’s best off-road racers have arrived in the UAE capital determined to conquer the event.

Getting underway on Saturday, the seven-day extravaganza will welcome even more competitors than in 2022, when the Desert Challenge took its place as the second round in the inaugural season of the World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).

This weekend, more than 150 competitors will take to the deserts of the Al Dhafra region, and the Desert Challenge has encouraged a breadth of talent, from 18-year-old UAE resident Alex McInness in the Moto R2 class and 18-year-old Spanish driver Pau Navarro in the T4 class all the way to France’s Claude Fournier competing in the T3.

The ADDC remains one of the most challenging events on the calendar as it continues to build on 32 years of heritage, and now brings one of the most dramatic routes to the FIA and FIM competitors in the W2RC.

Playing a crucial role in this work is Official Automotive Partner, Al-Futtaim Toyota. The Rally’s organisers, the Emirates Motorsports Organisation (EMSO), and Al-Futtaim Toyota continue to build on a successful relationship, which introduced a fleet of vehicles for use by officials, marshalls, volunteers, and media during last year’s edition of the Desert Challenge.

Al-Futtaim Toyota’s cars will guarantee reliability in one of the toughest environments in the world once again as the event gets underway this weekend. A product of the UAE, Al-Futtaim Toyota brings a great heritage of its own to the historically-rich Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

Jacques Brent, Managing Director, Al-Futtaim Toyota, said: “Off-roading is an integral part of the Toyota culture and an inseparable part of our history in the UAE. Needless to say, Toyota and ADDC are the perfect fit in that sense. Supporting this popular challenge is an honour and truly builds on our motorsport credentials, alongside providing our fanbase real thrills in one of the UAE’s most dramatic landscapes.” As Official Automotive Partner, we are happy to provide our vehicles and expertise, and are excited to back EMSO in its mission to continue developing this iconic event.”

As well as bringing their expertise in support of the EMSO’s efforts, Toyota will also have a strong presence on-course in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

Defending W2RC champion Nasser Al Attiyah looks to make it back-to-back driver and constructor titles for himself and Toyota Gazoo Racing this year. The Qatari could secure crucial points toward those goals at the ADDC, having won the event in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive in 2016 and 2021.

Yazeed Al Rajhi. — Supplied photo
Yazeed Al Rajhi. — Supplied photo

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge brings the pinnacle of off-road racing in the UAE to the W2RC, as the EMSO continues to promote international events within the region.

Khalid Bin Sulayem, EMSO President, said: “We’re delighted that our strong relationship with Al-Futtaim Toyota continues to evolve and progress in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

“Al-Futtaim Toyota’s extensive experience of the rallying world, combined with the EMSO’s knowledge of the ADDC off-road racing in the UAE, come together to make the perfect formula for an exciting event in just a few days time.”

Al-Futtaim Toyota brings further credibility to the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and its mission to provide opportunities and develop motorsport talent in the UAE.

This is exemplified by the recent launch of the Al-Futtaim Toyota Motorsport Academy. Becoming a 2023 Toyota UAE GR Ambassador for a year will include a Toyota GR vehicle, a trip to a global racing event where Toyota competes, and a chance to participate in the FIA Cross Country Challenge - all of which could make an immense difference for an upcoming driver.

Amongst this year’s ADDC competitors will be the lucky winners of the “Road to Dakar.” Organised by the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) as part of the event, the “Road to Dakar” is open to rookies in both the FIM Rally 2 and FIA SSV T4. The winning competitors from these categories will be awarded with free registration in the same category in the 2024 Dakar Rally.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is is held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative Court in Al Dhafra Region; presented by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council; with the support of this year’s Energy partner ADNOC Distribution; Automotive partner Al-Futtaim Toyota; Abu Dhabi Aviation; Al Ain Water; Governmental support from the Ministry of Defence & UAE Armed Forces , Abu Dhabi Police, Civil Defence, Abu Dhabi Distribution Co, Al Dhafra Region Municipality, and our media partner Abu Dhabi Sports TV.

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