2017 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (April 1-6, 2017)
ABU DHABI (UAE) – Wednesday, March 29: Overdrive Racing will be represented by the defending FIA World Cup champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and this year’s championship leader Aron Domzala at the forthcoming Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
The event is regarded as the toughest round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, takes place over six days and starts with a timed super special stage at the Al-Forsan International Circuit on April 1. Five gruelling selective sections follow through some of the remotest deserts on the Arabian Peninsula, while the finishing ceremonies will be held at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on April 6.
Al-Attiyah and French navigator Matthieu Baumel are in a rich vein of form with their Toyota Hilux and have given Overdrive Racing seven successive victories on rounds of the FIA World Cup, dating back to Al-Attiyah’s second ever victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge last April. He has gone on to record subsequent victories in Qatar, Spain, Italy, Poland, Morocco in 2016 and Dubai last month and is unbeaten anywhere in this type of racing discipline with the exception of the Dakar Rally in January.
Taking the win on the recent Dubai International Baja, the first of two events to be organised by the Automobile and Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates in the space of a month, has lifted the Qatari to second in the FIA World Cup Drivers’ standings behind his team-mate Domzala.
“This is one of my favourite desert rallies and one where you have to be fully focused and physically fit to succeed,” said Al-Attiyah. “Last year Matthieu and I gave Overdrive and Toyota their first ever win here. It was a great result and we are keen to do it again and take the championship lead. My other win was back in 2008 with my former Swedish co-driver Tina Thörner, but it is never easy here.”
Domzala and navigator Szymon Gospodarczyk had the slight advantage of having taken part in both the opening rounds of the series in Russia and Dubai, but they will have their work cut out to see off the advances of Al-Attiyah in the insipid desert heat and over the towering dunes that make the Abu Dhabi event so unique and so demanding.
Double points are on offer for the four longer rounds of the FIA series in Abu Dhabi, Qatar Kazakhstan and Morocco and the winner next week will receive the huge boost of 60 championship points.
“We have made a tremendous start to the new season with a win for Aron in Russia and the Dubai success for Nasser,” said Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin. “The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is one of the biggest events of the year and one of the most difficult. We know how treacherous the dunes can be and the heat makes it very demanding for the cars and the crews. The target is to push for the win and keep up our superb record on rounds of the FIA World Cup.”
The short spectator stage on April 1 precedes five desert sections of 276.59km, 289.39km, 288.73km, 250.25km and 291.76km on April 2-6. In a total route of around 2,073km, crews will tackle approximately 1,324km against the clock in the desert areas around Liwa, Geyathi, Tharwaniyah and Arada in deepest and remotest Abu Dhabi.
FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies – standings after round 2 (unofficial):
1. Aron Domzala (POL) 41pts
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT) 30pts
3. Viktor Khoroshavtsev (RUS) 21pts
3. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE) 21pts
5. Vladimir Frolov (RUS) 16pts
5. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT) 16pts
7. Ronan Chabot (FRA) 15pts
7. Yasir Saeidan (SAU) 15pts
9. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE) 12pts
9. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS) 12pts, etc