Tatarstan Prime Minister Minnikhanov returns to the UAE

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

For immediate release
Thursday, October 9th, 2003


Trucks prepare for UAE Desert Challenge showdown

DUBAI (UAE): This month's UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge will again be graced by the increasingly-popular Trucks category and the return of Roustam Minnikhanov, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Tatarstan, in an official factory Kamaz.

The Trucks section is for FIA homologated T4 vehicles and runs behind the motorcycles and cars in the five-day event across the sands of the UAE, which starts with a Prologue stage, near Dubai, on Monday, October 20th.

Trucks have graced the entry list for the final round of the FIA World Cup for several years and the Kamaz team have been the most successful to date. Team regulars Firdaus Kabirov, Aydar Beliaev and Bigachev won the event in 2000 and the team has dominated over the last three years.

Back in 2000, the two-truck Kamaz team consisted of the eventual winners and a team led by Roustam Minnikhanov and Sergei Yakubov. They finished third overall, behind the factory Czech Tatra team and ahead of fourth-placed Italians, Miki Biasion and Tiziano Siviero, in a Fiat Iveco Truck.

While Biasion - twice a former World Rally Champion with Lancia - has now switched his allegiance to a factory drive in the new T2 Pajero Evolution with the official Mitsubishi Motors Team, Minnikhanov, Yakubov and Vladimir Tchaguine again return this season with Kamaz.

For Minnikhanov, racing a truck at high-speed across the deserts of the Middle East is a far cry from his normal profession in high-level international politics. He, Yakubov and Vladmir Tchaguine crashed their truck last season in the desert south of Dubai, but still managed to take overall victory. They return to compete against the Italian Pierpaolo Bonetti and the fellow Russian team entries of Ilgizar Mardeev and Firdaus Kabirov.

~Trucks are often the forgotten relation in world cross-country rallying,~ said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the chairman of the organising committee. ~But they are spectacular to watch and the competition between them is equally as intense as the bikes and the cars. We are delighted to welcome competitors back to the UAE Desert Challenge again this year.~

Trucks have been an institution on the gruelling Paris-Dakar Rally for many years, with the likes of Czech Karel Loprais and Dutchman Jan de Rooy achieving notoriety for their exploits across the African Sahara.

Tatra and Karel Loprais remain the most successful manufacturer/driver partnership in the history of the Dakar Rally with six outright victories. Team Kamaz won the event in 1996, 2000, 2001 and 2002 and returns to the United Arab Emirates this month to further bolster their chances of taking a fifth Dakar victory in January.

~Taking part in an event like the Desert Challenge in a Truck is a totally new proposition to driving a rally car,~ said Italy's Miki Biasion, who competed in the UAE Desert Challenge on a couple of occasions with a Fiat Iveco. ~It requires a quite different approach. It is definitely a team event and you rely more on your co-driver and mechanic. It is not easy to dig a heavy truck out of soft sand. You have to read the dunes and concentrate all the time.~

This year's UAE Desert Challenge 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 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: 09/10/2003

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