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Revised Course for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Shows the Best of UAE


Changes introduced for the 2023 edition confirm the ADDC as one of the world’s best-organized, most challenging and visually stunning rally racing events

Honoring its status as one of the oldest events in the world of Cross Country, the 32nd edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge confirmed once again its leading position and remains a highlight of the global off-road calendar. Running for the second year as part of the new FIA & FIM World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC), the event was organized by the Emirates Motorsports Organization (EMSO) and presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

Bringing the event to the heart of modern Abu Dhabi, the Rally HQ was set at the Energy Business Centre, a futuristic high-tech and energy-efficient venue that perfectly reflects the profile of the thriving capital of the UAE. This represents a further step into a new era for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, as EMSO signals a bright future for the rally in partnership with key regional and global institutions, organizations and companies such as Energy Partner ADNOC Distribution, Automotive Partner Al Futtaim Toyota, and W2RC Promoter & TV Production partner A.S.O (Amaury Sports Organisation).

EMSO President, Khalid Bin Sulayem, commented: “The second world championship edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (ADDC) has been a thrilling journey for everyone concerned. Whether you were here as a competitor, as part of the organization, or as a spectator, the 2023 edition of the ADDC will remain in our memories for a long time. The combination of skill, action, drama, bravery, and good sporting spirit has marked out this year as an important one in the growth and global awareness of this phenomenal event. We are so proud of everyone who made it happen.”

Alongside the event’s Energy Partners, EMSO brought the first leg of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge to Al Dhannah City for the first time, where the Prologue took place in front of large, enthusiastic crowds.

In line with the government’s strategy to push further development in the area, evolving this prestigious rally event to include Al Dhannah marks exciting progress for the ADDC by bringing the racing action closer to the fans, against a backdrop of the raw beauty of this stunning coastal area.

The action then moved into the depths of the unforgiving Rub’ Al Khali Desert, also known as “The Empty Quarter”, the largest continuous sand desert on Earth. Over the course of the event, the competitors powered through spectacular dune territory covering a total of 1915 kilometers, before returning to the capital for the final honors. The last day of the competition saw the ADDC family return to the ultra-modern “Energy Business Centre” for a final ramp and Awards Ceremony, which was broadcast live on the UAE’s main sports TV channels.

The 32nd Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge was won by Saudi driver Yazeed Al Rajhi and his German co-driver Timo Gottschalk, ahead of Czech duo Martin Prokop and Viktor Chytka, and the Argentine/Spanish team of Juan Cruz Yacopini and Dani Oliveras. Among the pre-race favourites, Nasser Al-Attiyah, who won here in 2021, had to retire on Stage 3 following a barrel roll, and Sebastian Loeb spent the race playing point-scoring catch-up following a mechanical failure on Stage 1.

Two of the favourites in the bike category, Sam Sunderland and Kevin Benavides were unable to take part due to training injuries before the race, but there was some good news for the Benavides family when Kevin’s brother Luciano won Stage 4 ahead of the eventual ADDC 2023 winner Adrien Van Beveren. Among the bike riders, Mason Klein of BAS World KTM Racing confirmed his status as one to watch after a fantastic ride on Stage 2 which saw him leap up the rankings.

2023 proved to be one of the best organized and one of the safest ADDCs on record, with only a small number of interventions from the Search & Rescue team, which is also a reflection of the high quality of the competitors in this race. Added to that, the weather was slightly cooler than usual, which helped in terms of drivers and riders having to worry less about staying well hydrated.

To round things up, nearly 200 minutes of carefully curated top-notch footage were broadcast in 190 countries globally, bringing the fabulous natural and urban landscapes of the UAE to the world through the global distribution of event highlights.

Strengthening the ties between key championship stakeholders after the solid basis set between the Dakar Rally in January, and the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in March, the competition starts to seriously heat up with the Sonora Rally Mexico as round 3 of the W2RC World Championship. A delegation of EMSO representatives was present at this new, and extremely rugged event.

At a regional level, cross-country rally lovers will not have to wait long to satisfy their thirst for action, roaring engines and dramatic plot twists. From  09th – 11th November 2023 during Round 7 of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas & FIM Bajas World Cup, the Dubai International Baja the action is non-stop.