Despres returns in bid for third successive Desert Challenge win

UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge
2003 FIA and FIM World Cups, final round

For immediate release
Thursday, October 2nd, 2003


Bumper international bike entry in UAE Desert Challenge

DUBAI (UAE): Leading French motorcycle rider Cyril Despres will be bidding for a third successive victory in the Motos category of the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge, when competitive action gets underway with a short Prologue stage in Dubai on Monday, October 20th.

Despres, who is currently racing across the Egyptian deserts on his KTM, has become one of the top names in the world of enduro racing in recent years and took second place in this year's Telefonica Dakar Rally on his factory-supported KTM 660. The winner of the UAE Desert Challenge for the last two years, Despres faces fierce competition from Fabrizio Meoni, the winner of the Dakar Rally in 2001 and 2002, on this final round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Cup.

Despres and Meoni have been the two most competitive riders this season. The Italian finished third overall in the Dakar on the powerful KTM twin-cylinder back in January and won the Rally of Tunisia in April.

Rumoured to be heading for retirement at the end of the season, he will be determined to win the UAE Desert Challenge for the second time - Meoni beat KTM team mates Joan Roma and Alfie Cox in 1999.

While the friendly factory KTM rivals start as favourites in the international entry from countries as far afield as Japan, South Africa, Australia, Turkey and several European countries, the local entry is strong.

British expatriate Dave McBride has an excellent record on the UAE Desert Challenge and the UAE Motorcycle Club member will be hoping for a podium finish again this season.

Several regulars from the FIM World Cup have also entered the five-day race across the sands of the UAE. Slovenian international Miran Stanovnik is a regular visitor to the UAE Desert Challenge, while Poland's Marek Dabrowski, Italy's Oscar Polli, Australia's Grant Robertson and Norway's Pal-Anders Ullevalseter are capable of taking a podium placing and have taken part in several major internationals in recent years.

~Motorcycles were first admitted to the UAE Desert Challenge in 1995,~ said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the chairman of the organising committee. ~Many of the top names in the sport have graced the entry list during this time and gone on to win events such as the Paris-Dakar. Cyril Despres and Fabrizio Meoni are two of the top riders in the world and finished second and third on the Dakar this year. It is fantastic to welcome them back to the UAE.~

Motorcycles will begin each section of this year's UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge ahead of the cars and trucks and may benefit from cooler, early morning temperatures in the UAE deserts. ~Last year was one of the most tiring events I have ever done,~ admitted an exhausted Dave McBride at the finish.

~The UAE Desert Challenge is a nice rally and a good test for me before the Dakar Rally,~ said Cyril Despres. ~Next January is probably my best chance so far to win the Dakar and I need to make the best preparations possible. The dunes in the UAE are difficult. The Dakar will go through Mauritania again this year, so I can carry out a good test in the Middle East. Hopefully it will also be a winning one!~

This year's UAE Desert Challenge will be 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 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, UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge press officer, Tel: + (44) 1952 825078, Fax: + (44) 1952 825001, Tel: + 44 7831 123153
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com

Date issued: 02/10/2003

For further information or assistance please contact:

NDP Publicity Services
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Tel/Fax: +44 (0) 1952 825001
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