The Dubai International Baja powered by Nissan and AW Rostamani brings World Cup cross country rallying back to the UAE next week, with a powerful assembly of top drivers and riders battling for honours across the spectacular Al Qudra desert terrain.
Taking place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, the rally is supported by the Government of Dubai, Dubai Police, Dubai Municipality and the General Authority of Sports.
Setting the stage for two days of gripping action, the Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE (ATCUAE), the national motor sport authority and rally organisers, today announced a new agreement with the event’s joint title sponsors.
The agreement was signed by Kalyana Sivagnanam, President Nissan Middle East and Regional Vice-President Africa, Middle East & India Region; Khalid Al Rostamani, Vice Chairman of AW Rostamani Group, which is the sole distributor for the Nissan brand in Dubai and the Northern Emirates through its flagship company, Arabian Automobiles; and Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the ATCUAE and Emirates Motor Sport Federation, and Vice President for Sport at the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).
The Dubai International Baja powered by Nissan and AW Rostamani Group, which was held with much success for the first time last year, forms the second stage of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies and the opening round of the FIM Bajas World Cup. The FIA World Cup will be open to cars and buggies, while the FIM Bajas World Cup caters to contestants riding motorbikes and quadbikes.
As a result of the new agreement, the Nissan Patrol is the official car for the 548 km event, running from March 8 – 10. Nissan Patrols will be used by an experienced ATCUAE team to plot a new rally route through the Al Qudra desert, and will serve as official on-site vehicles for the organisers and FIA and FIM officials. The rally is the first of two big World Cup dates for the ATCUAE next month, with the 28th edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge being held from March 24 – 29.
The Dubai Baja brings a dramatic change in conditions for drivers following this year’s opening World Cup event in the frozen forests of Northern Russia earlier this week. With a powerful international line-up of competitors arriving from across the Middle East and overseas, the rally will send the cars, buggies, bikes and quads into action over a challenging 174 km special stage on Friday, March 9, and Saturday, March 10.
Kalyana Sivagnanam, President Nissan Middle East and Regional Vice-President Africa, Middle East & India Region, said: “At Nissan Middle East we are proud to continue our sponsorship of this exciting event for a second consecutive year, and we look forward to seeing local and regional competitors take part in this prestigious global event. We feel this is a natural partnership, given our long history and heritage in motorsports and rallies. At the same time, the Nissan Patrol is an ideal vehicle for the challenging terrain of Al Qudra desert, and we are confident that its unique capabilities and qualities will be appreciated by the rally teams.”
Khalid Al Rostamani said: “Having played a key role in establishing this exciting event last year, we are very pleased to be extending our support for a second year. The Baja style of events points to a positive future for rallying in the UAE and the Middle East region. We’re very happy to be partnering the ATCUAE in this initiative to make the sport more affordable, and more sustainable, in the process attracting more Emirati and local-based competitors.”
Sulayem said: “We were particularly grateful to Nissan and to AW Rostamani for the key part they played in bringing this rally to life last year. I’m very happy that they are continuing to support us in our commitment to drive rallying forward in a way which is much more sustainable.”
Leading the UAE challenge for the cars title in Dubai will be last year’s runner up, Khalid Al Qassimi, partnered by French co-driver Xavier Panseri. Among their biggest rivals will be two-times Desert Challenge winners from Russia, Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov.
The Dubai International Baja powered by Nissan and AW Rostamani has become a natural successor to the Dubai International Rally, which ran for 37 years but has been replaced by the more desert-friendly and affordable Baja format which is open for buggies, bikes and quads, as well as cars.
Two weeks later, the focus of the World Cup will go from Dubai to Abu Dhabi for the latest edition of the Desert Challenge, already well established by the ATCUAE as a premier event in the FIA World Cup series and the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship.