Dakar Rally star Stephane Peterhansel to compete in Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
Most successful competitor in cross-country rallying history will be partnered by wife, with pair to star in 119-strong field
This upcoming Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will feature the return of Stephane Peterhansel, the most successful competitor in cross-country rallying history.
The Frenchman, winner of the event five times as a driver and once as a rider, will be partnered by his wife, with the pair to star in a 119-strong field that comprises 34 countries. The action begins on Saturday at Yas Marina Circuit before moving to five desert stages across the Al Dhafrah region.
Peterhansel, driving an X-raid Mini John Cooper Works buggy, captured the Desert Challenge bikes title in 1996 and sealed the last of his five cars crowns in 2011. He is one of 39 drivers contesting the second round of the 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies for cars and buggies.
Peterhansel is the Dakar Rally’s most celebrated competitor, with six wins on the bike between 1991 and 1998, and seven victories in the car from 2004 to 2017. He first competed with wife Andrea beside him at the 2016 Italian Baja, when the couple were on honeymoon.
Peterhansel clearly has form in the Desert Challenge event, as does his wife, who has finished the rally on two wheels and four. Like Peterhansel, she graduated from bikes to cars in cross-country. This year, Andrea will feature for the first time as a navigator.
“Stephane and Andrea are great friends of the Desert Challenge and we’re very happy to welcome them back,” said ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the FIA Vice President for Sport. “They’re both fantastic competitors and it will be interesting to see how they complete as a team against some of the best driver/co-driver partnerships in the world.”
The top two in the FIA World Cup standings after the first round in Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi and Russia’s Vladimir Vasilyev, headline the seedings list. Vasilyev won successive Desert Challenges, in 2014 and 2015.
Other notable names include Poland’s Jakub Przygonski, competing in the same Mini John Cooper that carried him to a second consecutive victory at the recent Dubai International Baja, and the UAE’s Khalid Al Qassimi, a previous Desert Challenge winner.
The UAE is well represented, in fact, with Al Qassimi one of five Emirates taking part. Compatriot Yahya Al Helei will compete in his 29th successive Desert Challenge – marking every event since its inception.
Meanwhile, 2017 Desert Challenge bikes champion Sam Sunderland is the top seed of 41 riders for the opening round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
Updated: March 26, 2019 08:32 AM