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UAE Desert Challenge set to be largest ever Middle East motorsport event

UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge
2003 FIA and FIM World Cups, final round
For immediate release
Tuesday, September 2nd, 2003

UAE DESERT CHALLENGE SET TO BE LARGEST
EVER MIDDLE EAST MOTORSPORT EVENT

Marlboro to support event for 11th consecutive year

DUBAI (UAE): The UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge, which takes place across the sands of the UAE in October, is set to be the largest motor sport event in Middle East history. It is set to attract the cream of the world's enduro riders and cross-country drivers, as they carry out a final shakedown before January's gruelling Dakar Rally.

The five-day event starts with a Prologue stage on Monday, October 20th and is the final round of both the FIA Cup and FIM World Championship for Cross Country Rallies. It is being held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Minister of Defence.

For the first time, the event will be based at the Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) at Le Meridien Mina Al-Seyahi in Dubai. Dubai has become the sporting capital of the Middle East in the last 15 years and the DIMC is the home of the Emirate's Victory Offshore Powerboat team. It offers ultra-modern facilities for event officials, VIPs and the international media. Rally organizers are expecting over 150 overseas media to visit this year.

The event will continue with its now traditional format of starting in Abu Dhabi and offering four stages across the remote deserts of the Abu Dhabi and Dubai Emirates, with the bivouac sited at Mizaira'a in the heart of the Liwa oasis for a third successive year - deep in the heart of the Rub Al-Khali or Empty Quarter - immortalised by the British author Wilfred Thesiger, who died last week at the age of 93.

This overnight halt will be used for three nights, as the world's leading enduro riders and drivers tackle two loop stages in and out of Liwa, one stage from Abu Dhabi to Liwa and the final stage from the Liwa region and on to a finish near Dubai.

~The UAE Desert Challenge qualified for the FIA World Cup in 1993 and has been the traditional final round of the championship ever since,~ said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, chairman of the organising committee.

~We are proud of this achievement. Bikes were admitted for the first time in 1995 and they now form an integral part of the rally. We continue to improve and modify certain aspects of the Desert Challenge to make it more efficient and enjoyable for our competitors and our shift this year to the DIMC is an exciting development.~

~We are delighted to continue our long association with the UAE Desert Challenge,~ said a spokesman for Philip Morris Middle East. ~It has been the largest event of its kind in the region for many years and continues to grow each year. The Middle East is becoming a major area of the world for international sport and the Desert Challenge is further enhancing the UAE's reputation.~

This year's UAE Desert Challenge looks set to attract one of the largest car entries in the event's history. The Mitsubishi Motors team has already confirmed that it intends to send a full strength factory line-up to test prior to the Dakar Rally, while Team Volkswagen, the Nissan Rallye Raid Team, Mercedes and the BMW X5 Raid Team are planning to enter with professional drivers.

This year's FIA World Cup also looks set to go down to the wire and defending World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser is set to go head-to-head with Portugal's Carlos Sousa across the sands of the UAE, as the pair decide the outcome of the FIA Drivers' Championship.

In the motorcycle category, the KTM Rallye Raid Team looks set to send several of its factory riders to test prior to the Dakar. They will face a host of leading Middle East riders and many European and Asian privateer riders.

Ends

For further information about this year's event, contact the Marlboro UAE Desert Challenge office, PO Box 1714, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Tel: + 971 4 2669922 Fax: + 971 4 2666996 or E-mail: rallyuae@emirates.net.ae

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, Tel: + (44) 1952 825078, Fax: + (44) 1952 825001
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com




Date issued: 01/09/2003

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