Off-road engines are revving into gear for the 30th edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. 1,355 kilometres spread over five desert stages in the treacherous Empty Quarter will push the convoy to their limits. There’s FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies and FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship points up for grabs, as well as crucial Dakar Rally prep to be done.
Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) is chasing his third ADDC car race title alongside co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA). If they can park their Toyota Hilux on the top step of the podium in Abu Dhabi it will bring Al-Attiyah to the verge of a fifth World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies title (and fourth with Baumel).
« Our Hilux has proven itself as a race winner, so we have every reason to hope for a good result. » – Nasser Al-Attiyah
Among the world class field aiming to beat Al-Attiyah is 2018 World Cup winner Kuba Przygonski (POL) and co-driver Timo Gottschalk (GER) in their MINI John Cooper Works Buggy.
« In January I will drive a new car at the Dakar. That is why every competitive kilometre is worth its weight in gold for me. » – Kuba Przygonski
The battle of the T3 side-by-side machines in Abu Dhabi promises to be intriguing with the overall World Cup category title still on the line. Victories in Andalucia and Kazakhstan earlier in the year have Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team pair Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) and co-driver François Cazalet (FRA) leading the championship by 11.5 points. Gutiérrez will be driving the Junior Team’s 2021 FIA Spec OT3 in Abu Dhabi.
« Now I really want to get started here and try for the first time the dunes of Abu Dhabi. » – Cristina Gutiérrez
Gutiérrez and Cazalet will have the support of fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team crews Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (GER) and Guillaume De Mevius (BEL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) as the squad aim to maintain their T3 championship lead in Abu Dhabi.
« We’re going to try our best to stay in front and maybe get an overall stage win. Let’s be optimistic and see what we can get done! » – Seth Quintero
Quintero and De Mevius will also be doing valuable work for the team by running OT3s that adhere to the 2022 FIA Spec as the testing program continues ahead of next year’s Dakar.
« We’re driving the new car the team will use at the 2022 Dakar Rally, so we’ll do what we can to help prepare this car the best we can. » – Guillaume De Mevius
Over in the bike race a second Cross-Country Rallies World Championship has already been wrapped up by Matthias Walkner (AUT) this season. However, the 2018 Dakar winner still has a big gap to fill on his cross-country resume… he is yet to win the ADDC. The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider will be looking to put that right as soon as possible.
« The team have been great all year, so a big thank you to them. » – Matthias Walkner
Looking to cap off a remarkable debut season with an overall podium finish in the Cross-Country Rallies World Championship is GasGas Factory rider Daniel Sanders (AUS).
« I’m going into the race to win it – I think if all goes well, I’ve got a good chance to do that. » – Daniel Sanders
Local fans will be cheering on Dakar regular Mohammed Balooshi (UAE) who will be looking to get in further valuable kilometres on familiar ground in Abu Dhabi.
The action starts for the bikers with a prologue stage at the Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday, November 6. Then the entire Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge convoy sets off on the first of five desert stages on Sunday, November 7. The winners will be known at the end of the fifth and final stage on Thursday, November 11.
Nasser Al-Attiyah: « Our Hilux has proven itself as a race winner, so we have every reason to hope for a good result. »
Kuba Przygonski: « This is the time of the year when you feel that Dakar is fast approaching. There is something going on all the time, I look at my calendar all the time and plan my trainings, tests, meetings, etc. But that’s good, I prefer when a lot is going on around me. This year, these days are especially important, because in January I will drive a new car at the Dakar. That is why every competitive kilometre is worth its weight in gold for me. »
Cristina Gutiérrez: « I really want to compete here because we are still leaders in the World Cup and I think it’s a good opportunity to get valuable points. We continue to lead the World Cup after the the previous rally in Morocco. Now I really want to start here and try for the first time the dunes of Abu Dhabi. »
Seth Quintero: « I’m excited to be back with the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team in Abu Dhabi. We’re here to do some testing and development on the car and learn for Dakar. Dakar is coming up quick and we’re going to take this time to dial everything in. We’ll be at the front of the race because we’re running in the 2022 class. It’s pretty nerve-racking to be amongst the big guys like Nasser. We’re just going to try our best to stay in front of them to be honest and maybe get an overall stage win. Let’s be optimistic and see what we can get done! »
Guillaume De Mevius: « I’m here in Abu Dhabi to continue my learning in the sand. For sure this is something important for me to keep learning and we’ll be concentrating on that. Also, we’re driving the new car the team will use at the 2022 Dakar Rally, so we’ll do what we can to help prepare this car the best we can. »
Matthias Walkner: « The team have been great all year, so a big thank you to them. »
Daniel Sanders: « I’m really excited to take on the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and get in some racing before the Dakar in January. Things went well at the last round of the championship in Morocco, and since then we’ve been training hard, working on the bike, and doing more roadbook stuff. I’ve never been to Abu Dhabi before so I’m looking forward to going and racing there. From what I’ve seen the desert looks really good – it has some nice dunes that should suit me, and it looks like it will be a really good warm-up for Dakar. There will be a good element of strategy, which again is good to learn more about and will help to build my skills. I’m going into the race to win it – I think if all goes well, I’ve got a good chance to do that. I’m second in the championship right now so to confirm that and finish my first full season as runner-up will be amazing. »