Ever fancied tackling the desert? Watch the experts in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge to find out how it's done.
It’s full throttle for the competitors taking part in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
From March 26 to April 2, 2015, more than 100 men and women from around the globe will be putting their foot down as they career around Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island, before bolting over the sand dunes around Liwa Oasis, sabkha plains and the Moreeb area of the Empty Quarter.
There are three divisions in the five-day event. Competitors will zip around in 4x4s and trucks in the auto category, ride motorbikes and dirt bikes in the moto category and race on quad bikes in the quad category. A race around the F1 track will decide the competitors’ starting order once they reach the desert, and after this they’ll blaze through five stages, each 250-300km long.
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the vice president of the global motorsports body, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), launched the challenge in 1991, back when it was held across the Emirates and known as the UAE Desert Challenge. An Emirati national, Mohammed is also president of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE), the body responsible for organising the event.
There’s no doubt Mohammed’s the right man for the job, as he was crowned rally champion in the FIA Middle East series 14 times. In fact, apart from the three years he was unable to compete, he won the title every year from 1986 until his retirement in 2002.
Mohammed says, ‘When I launched the event in 1991 it was much smaller, initially attracting just over 30 entries, most of whom were local.
Two years later we were included in the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for the first time.’
The name of the contest was changed in March 2009, and since then the challenge has been staged entirely across the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
The auto category is now in its 25th edition, while 2015 will see participants compete in the moto category for the 20th year in a row. The quad category joined the challenge in 2005.
Mohammed adds, ‘The beauty of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is that local desert rally enthusiasts and private entrants from around the region can compete on a stage alongside the world’s top professional teams. Our planning team has created a route that will deliver the ultimate desert rally experience, producing stages that set a fair but difficult test of skill, ultimately rewarding the bravest drivers and riders.
‘No one has an easy time during the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, and no one wins it without pushing themselves to the limit. There is a huge sense of achievement for anyone who goes the distance, and the thrill of the finish line after
five gruelling legs covering more than 1,000km of desert terrain never diminishes. Nobody who takes part ever forgets the experience.’
There’s no denying the challenge is going to be big, then. But so is the desert – so where do you head if you want to watch the event?
The site of the rally is a bivouac, a temporary camp set up next to the five-star Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, on the edge of the Liwa Oasis in the Empty Quarter. Liwa Hotel is about 60km from the camp, close to the rally's start point. You can enter the bivouac in a regular car but you’ll need a four-wheel drive in the sand dunes.
ATCUAE has organised viewing points along the route in the Western Region, which are also accessible in a four-wheel drive.
So, are you revving your engine yet?
Bivouac, Qasr Al Sarab, Liwa Oasis, www.abudhabidesertchallenge.com (04 296 1122).
Dune bashing top tips
Dune-bashing is great fun, but it can turn deadly if you’re ill-prepared. Here are some top tips to ensure you keep it safe.
1). Make sure your petrol tank is full before setting off, and there is a spare tyre in the boot.
2). Take a strong rope in case you need to pull your car out of the sand.
3). Make sure you have a toolbox of essentials – hammer, screw-driver, pliers, flashlight with extra batteries, a box of matches and a pocket knife.
4). Learn how to use a compass, and take one with you during your outing.
5). Take lots of fluids and food supplies with you on the trip, as well as high SPF sunscreen and extra clothes.
6). Tell friends and family where you are going, and how long you intend to be gone for.
7). Don’t venture out into the desert alone – always go in a convoy with more than one car.