x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Desert Challenge starts

Competitors fought for pole position in the qualifying round of the UAE Desert Challenge last night.

Malcolm  Anderson takes part in the Super Special Stage of the  UAE Desert Challenge on the first day of the competition in Jebel Ali.
Malcolm Anderson takes part in the Super Special Stage of the UAE Desert Challenge on the first day of the competition in Jebel Ali.

Competitors fought for pole position in the qualifying round of the UAE Desert Challenge last night, with Qatar's reigning Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) Middle East Rally champion setting the fastest time. The win places Nasser Saleh al Attiyah as the top seed heading into the main event this morning.

Attiyah will lead 40 drivers leaving the starting ramp, as he aims to become the first Arab winner of the event since the Qatari, Saeed al Hajri, won it in 1993. The event's official start is from the Emirates Palace hotel, moving on to the first leg, a 281km stretch leaving from behind the UAE Air Force base at Mafraq and finishing at Moreeb Hill. In total, 115 vehicles - prototype cars, modified four-wheel drive vehicles, lorries, bikes and quads - from around the world are competing in the desert challenge. It is the penultimate round of both the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies and the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) Cross Country Rallies World Championship.

Over the next three days the rally breaks out into the Empty Quarter, crossing towering dunes over 296km tomorrow, 340km on Wednesday and 314km on Thursday. The final legs on Friday feature 118km and 166km races toward the finishing line at the Dubai International Marine Club. Portuguese rider Ruben Faria was the fastest rider in the qualifying motorbike event. eharnan@thenational.ae