The competitive stages of this year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, a week-long cross-country endurance rally, get underway today (Sunday, April 3), with Leg 1 starting at 09.00 in Al Dafrah on the edge of Abu Dhabi.
Named Al Gharbia after the Western Region area in which most of this year’s event will be held, Leg 1 sees the international field of 101 competitors from 30 nations cover 290 kilometres of daunting desert terrain. The day will end when the racers arrive at the rally’s all-new bivouac base adjacent to the luxurious Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara.
Image 1: Route map for Leg 1 of the 2011 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
The opening route has been specially-designed to increase spectator access at key viewpoints, where they can take in the breath-taking, high-speed sights of the event’s cars, trucks, quads and bikes taking on some of the world’s toughest terrain.
Starting positions for Leg 1 were decided by the result of Saturday’s spectator-friendly Super Special Stage (SSS) next to Marina Mall, which was set up by the event’s organisers in conjunction with Abu Dhabi Municipality.
The SSS, which gave several thousand rally fans the unique opportunity of seeing the off-road vehicles and participants up close, saw competitors take on a two-kilometre time trial on a specially-designed track set against the magnificent backdrop of Abu Dhabi city.
The Super Special Stage was officially started by Middle East rallying legend Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who is also Vice-president of the FIA and president of the Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE, which organisers event alongside Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. Ben Sulayem launched the rally by arriving at the course in one of his own rally cars.
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is one of the world’s top cross-country rallies and continually attracts the world’s most famous rally drivers and riders. A landmark partnership with Eurosport TV will see daily global broadcasts of all this year’s action.
The event is organised by the ATCUAE under the title sponsorship of ADTA, and is held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region. It is backed by a high-profile line-up of sponsors and supporters that includes Al Gharbia, ADNOC, Rotana - Yas Island, Al Ain Water, TAG Heuer, Explorer and Nissan – the all-terrain Nissan Patrol, dubbed ‘The Hero of All Terrain’, is the official vehicle of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.