ABU DHABI // While the likes of Leonid Novitskiy from Russia, Spain's Marc Coma and Stephane Peterhansel from France are set to take the headlines at this year's Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, two women are looking to make their mark as they take on some of the world's toughest and most spectacular terrain.
At just 20 years old, UAE-based Brittany Erasmus will tackle the demanding desert challenge for the first time, while Carmelia Liparoti Baggiani, from Italy, already has two cross-country rallying world titles to her name.
The women's contest will be a battle of youth versus experience, providing spectators with yet another strand to this competition.
Erasmus has never competed in a long-distance rally, and is jumping in at the deep end by making her debut at the demanding Desert Challenge on a Honda CRF 450 X motorbike.
The South African has been a resident of Dubai for 13 years, and she attended the English College, meaning she has an extensive local fan base to count on for support.
"I am constantly picturing myself coming over that finish line on the last day of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, imagining what I am going to feel like and look like," said the university student. "I am not the type of person to give up when things go wrong or get difficult."
Certainly, Erasmus is no stranger to coping with difficult situations. In 2007, she suffered a major setback to her rallying career, breaking her femur on a desert ride, which kept her out of the sport for nine months. However, after substantial physiotherapy and two operations, she was ready to ride again and more determined than ever to get back to racing.
Baggiani, the most experienced female quadbiker in the field this year, has taken on and completed the Desert Challenge twice before.
Riding a Yamaha Raptor Black Storm quad bike, Baggiani is hoping to inspire other women to become more involved in motorsport. "Taking part in rallies has been a dream of mine since childhood," Baggiani said. "I hope that my presence will inspire more ladies to enter the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and other races."