The second round of the World Cup for Cross Country Rallies is taking place in Abu Dhabi; in South Africa the Donaldson Cross Country Championship is starting today.

Cross country rally is the absolute protagonist of the weekend. The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – second leg of the FIA World Cup – will be run in the UAE, while in Harrismith, South Africa, the RFS Endurance will open the Donaldson Cross Country Championship.

This year the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will celebrate the 25th anniversary with a special opening event at Yas Marina Circuit, the track used for Formula One UAE Gran Prix; while the real race will be held in the Liwa Desert from Sunday to Thursday with five long stages.

Qatari Al Attyah – winner of the last Dakar Rally – is the favourite for the final victory, however he will have to face many strong opponents, in particular Team Overdrive drivers such as Saudi Al-Rajhi and Brazilian Varela, who won the bronze medal in the first round of FIA World Cup held in Russia.

“I’m proud to welcome such an impressive collection of competitors, support crews, officials and media to the UAE for the 25th edition of the Desert Challenge,” said ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the rally founder. “This event means such a lot to me, to my team at the ATCUAE, our sponsors, and the many volunteers who give up their time each year and work so hard with us to make it happen.”

On 27 and 28 March, in Harrismith, South Africa, the RFS Endurance will officially open the Donaldson Cross Country Championship. The rally will be run over a race distance close to 700 km on a route that features mostly virgin territory. Team Toyota Castrol has high victory expectations, as the line-up includes the defending champions Anthony Taylor and Dannis Murphy as well as Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, who reached a positive 16th position in the last Dakar Rally.

“We can’t wait for the season to start,” sayd Anthony Taylor. “The off-season has felt very long, especially while sitting at home, watching our cars compete on the Dakar.”
“We are very excited to be fielding the latest evolution of our Toyota Hilux, which has one of the best reliability track records in the field,” enthused Team Principal Glyn Hall. “This year, more than ever, reliability will be as important as speed. We believe we have the right car to do the job, together with the right crews to get us to the end of each race.”

Sources: Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Toyota Motorsport South Africa, Donaldson Cross Country Championship