Hemrani targets podium place in UAE Desert Challenge

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

For immediate release
Friday, October 17th, 2003


Qatar's Sheikh Hamed ready for challenge; Strong local entry

DUBAI (UAE): The UAE's Essa El-Hemrani will tackle next week's UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge, the final round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, in a Mitsubishi Pajero with co-driver Wael Marjan. The event starts with a Prologue stage on the Palm, Jumeira, at 4pm on Monday (October 19th).

El-Hemrani has been a staunch supporter of the Middle East's premier motorsport event since the late 1990s and has tackled five Desert Challenges. He finished sixth overall last year and won the T1 Marathon category in a Mitsubishi.

~I am looking forward to this race immensely,~ said El-Hemrani. ~This will be my second Desert Challenge with Wael. He is one of the best co-drivers in the UAE. It is great for local drivers that we have an event such as the Desert Challenge and I admire the efforts of Mohammed Ben Sulayem and his team in putting on the race. Mohammed has worked very hard to put the Challenge on the world map and I doubt that he could ever be replaced.

~My goal is a podium finish, but I have to be realistic. There are some very strong drivers out there and just finishing as the top local entrant will not be easy. Khalifa Al-Motaiwi has a good car and a strong team and Yayha Alhilli has more experience than me in the dunes and the desert. It will be a good fight. Wael and I are both looking forward to it.~

In addition to his Marlboro sponsorship, boating enthusiast El-Hemrani reckons that the Desert Challenge personally costs him in the region of $60,000 USD, compared to the $50,000 he budgets for the entire UAE Rally Championship. ~It is a major undertaking for me,~ he added. ~But I wouldn't miss it for the world.~

The Dubai driver also intends to tackle the Dubai International Rally at the start of December in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7.

The UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge traditionally attracts a strong line-up of local entrants, with Saeed Al-Hamli and Ahmad Malik entered in a Nissan Patrol. They are seeded at 19, ahead of UAE-based Mark Powell in his Land Rover Defender and the Liberty Rally Team duo of Ahmad Bin Soughat and Obaid Bin Hathboor in their Chevrolet Tahoes.

The 1993 Middle East rally champion Sheikh Hamed Al-Thani, from Qatar, is entered in a Nissan Patrol and is joined by Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari, the UAE's Sadiq Fazal (Mitsubishi Pajero) and fellow Qatari Mohammed Al-Mannai in a Mitsubishi.

~I really enjoy the Desert Challenge each year,~ admitted Sheikh Hamed. ~I don't get the chance to compete in the traditional special stages rallies in the Middle East any more, but I look forward to this event.~

~We are delighted that local drivers are taking part in the UAE Desert Challenge,~ said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the chairman of the organising committee. ~We, as the organising club, offer them our best wishes and look forward to their continued support.~

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 His Highness 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 office, Dubai International Marine Club, Dubai, UAE, Tel: + (9714) 3994673, Fax: + (9714) 3994149, Mob: + (971) (050) 5594369
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com/press releases

Date issued: 17/10/2003

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