62 crews are taking part in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, one of the most demanding and spectacular off-road races of the world

The stage is set for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, second round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies. The event, scheduled from 2 to 7 April across the largest emirate of UAE, has come to the 26th edition and counts 62 crews from 36 countries.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is an extremely demanding race that attracts the best international cross country rally drivers, as it is held on some of the world’s most spectacular sand dunes – yet simultaneously takes in five-star luxury in the form of the stunning hotel that is located right in the middle of the Rub al Khali desert and acts as the race’s base, and the dynamic, cutting-edge capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi.

For this important event two-time Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah from Qatar has decided to drive a Toyota Hilux for Overdrive Racing, the Belgian team supplied by EVO Corse. Al-Attiyah, who already drove a Toyota Overdrive in 2012, looks for another victory in Abu Dhabi after his last in 2008; he will have to face many strong rivals, such as Russian defending champion Vladimir Vasilyev, the host country’s experienced contender Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi and Finland’s former WRC star Mikko Hirvonen.

“Everyone at Overdrive is delighted to welcome Nasser back for two of the most demanding rallies in the FIA World Cup calendar,” said Overdrive Racing’s team director Jean-Marc Fortin. “We have many happy memories of working with him in the past and look forward to supporting him, as he tries and wins the first two desert rounds of this year’s FIA World Cup.”

Also South Racing, another team officially supplied by EVO Corse, hopes to collect a positive results in Abu Dhabi, after the good start in Baja Russia Northern Forest last month. The German team lines up two Toyota Hiluxes driven by Spanish Fernando Alvarez and Venezuelan Nunzio Cuffaro, who both have long experience on desert marathons. “Straight after the Baja Russia we returned to the workshops in Germany to get the two Toyotas ready for shipment to the Middle East and our first challenge in Abu Dhabi,” said South Racing’s managing director Scott Abraham. “This is one of the most difficult events in the world. The terrain is stunning and a superb chance for our drivers to compete on very difficult sand dunes in extreme temperatures that are as much of a challenge for the drivers and navigators as they are for the cars.”

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge kicks off with a short super special stage at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina racing circuit on Saturday, April 2, but the real meat of the off-road action takes place in Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter over the subsequent five days and five gruelling desert stages — punishing heat, soft sand and tricky navigation adding to the perils for the competitors on stages of 278.04 km, 278.90 km, 280.06 km, 257.87 km and 234.01 km.

The FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies will come back only one week after the end of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with the Sealine Cross Country Rally in Qatar.

Sources: ADDC, sport360.com, gulfnews.com, Overdrive Racing