W2RC - De Mevius and Chicherit head bumper entry for 33rd anniversary of Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge


2024 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship - Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (round two) - Event preview

The Overdrive Racing duo of Guillaume de Mévius and Guerlain Chicherit head an impressive 45-car field for a fierce competition at the 33rd Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Round two of the 2024 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) will blaze a trail through the UAE’s vast and demanding Empty Quarter and its seas of challenging sand dunes from February 25th-March 2nd.

The seven day event, founded by FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem in 1991, is being held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al-Dhafra Region. Organised by the Emirates Motorsports Organisation (EMSO), the Desert Challenge offers a particularly intense five days of action, overcoming towering dunes against an inspiring backdrop. Accessible to all, both racers and observers, the event attracts both the biggest names in the sport and those still in pursuit of that glory, but not all can conquer the Rub Al Khali Desert.

H.E. Khalid Bin Sulayem, the EMSO President, said: “The work done behind the scenes to pull together an event of this magnitude and complexity is paramount and the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge      would not be possible without the support of the Government of Abu Dhabi. I would like to extend our gratitude to H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan for his unwavering support.”

De Mévius and 2009 event winner Chicherit along with their respective co-drivers Xavier Panseri and Alex Winocq arrive in the UAE as the pace-setters in the W2RC Drivers’ Championship. De Mévius and Chicherit currently sit on 58 and 56 points, respectively, and will be looking to build an advantage over the missing Team Audi Sport.

The Ultimate category has attracted 18 entries, with 15 crews registered for the W2RC Drivers’ Championship and seven cars registered for the Manufacturers’ Championship. Toyota has nine registered cars in the field, with six run by Overdrive Racing and three by Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR). They line up against three Prodrive Hunters and a solitary X-Raid Mini JCW Rally Plus.

Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Seth Quintero and Lucas Moraes will represent Toyota Gazoo Racing in the Manufacturers’ contest against Nasser Al-Attiyah (Nasser Racing by Prodrive) and the X-Rally Team’s Cristian and Marcos Baumgart in the three Hunters, with young Spaniard Pau Navarro in the X-Raid Mini.

Team Audi Sport currently leads the Manufacturers’ tussle on 76 points, ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing on 63 points. Nasser Racing by Prodrive  currently sit further afield on 30 points and the X-Raid Mini JCW Team  on 20 points after a challenging Dakar Rally.

Three-time event winner Al-Attiyah’s (2008, 2016 and 2021) arrival in the UAE will  see him team up with Edouard Boulanger for the first time in the UAE after the Qatari reached an agreement with the Frenchman to replace last year’s championship-winning co-driver Mathieu Baumel. Boulanger has been Stéphane Peterhansel’s teammate for the last four seasons, but the multiple Dakar champion has yet to finalise his upcoming plans. After a disappointing retirement at the Dakar Rally, Al-Attiyah is looking for redemption from eighth in the Drivers’ Championship.

Denis Krotov and his three-time winning co-driver Konstantin Zhiltsov, Lionel and Lucie Baud, and Juan Cruz Yacopini/Daniel Oliveras, crew the other three Overdrive Toyotas in Abu Dhabi, alongside defending champion Yazeed Al-Rajhi and his German co-driver Timo Gottchalk.

South Africa’s Saood Varawa teams up with Frenchman François Cazalet in the third of the TGR Hiluxes alongside Moraes/Armand Monleón and Quintero/Dennis Zenz. Moraes currently holds fourth in the Drivers’ Championship.

Also bidding for success in the Ultimate category are the Czech duo of Martin Prokop, currently sixth in the Driver’s Championship and Viktor Chytka in a Ford Raptor RS Cross Country, as well as Buggyra ZM Racing’s Aliyyah Koloc/Sébastien Delaunay at the helm of a Red-Lined Revo+.

X-Raid’s Navarro, meanwhile, teams up in the UAE with the experienced German co-driver Andreas Schulz for the first time. The veteran is a former Dakar winner and has won the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge twice, in 2004 and 2010.

Can-Am Factory Team’s Baciuška tops Challenger group

Five of the 12 Challenger entries are registered for the W2RC, but the series leading and Dakar winning American Mitch Guthrie is absent. This has opened the door for the Can-Am Factory Team’s Rokas Baciuška and Oriol Vidal to try and press home their advantage. The Lithuanian currently trails Guthrie by 17 points but arrives in Abu Dhabi fresh from securing an excellent third overall with Overdrive Racing at the recent Saudi Baja.

The Brazilian duo of Marcelo Tiglia Castaldi and Carlos Sachs are third in their respective Challenger Driver and Co-driver points’ standings, and line up in the first of three Taurus B.V. T3 Max machines alongside Argentina’s Nicolas Cavigliasso/Valentina Pertegarini, and Saudi Arabia’s Dania Akeel with her French co-driver Stéphane Duplé.

Austin Jones holds fifth in the championship standings in the second of the Can-Am Factory Team Mavericks and teams up with Oriol Mena, who replaces Gustavo Gugelmin, as his co-driver.

Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Seaidan heads SSV category

Nine of the fifteen vehicles entered in the SSV category are registered for the W2RC, and they include five of the current top six in the points’ standings.

Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Seaidan amassed 91 points from his successful Dakar campaign and takes his Race World Team Can-Am into the dunes of the UAE with a 17-point cushion over American racer Sara Price.

Price and her South Racing Can-Am Team co-driver Jeremy Gray hold second in the title race, a single point clear of the Can-Am Factory Team’s Joāo Ferreira and Filipe Palmeiro.

With Brazil’s Cristiano de Sousa Batista not taking part, the FN Speed Team’s Sebastian Guayasamin and the TH-Truck Team’s Polaris driver Enrico Gaspari have an excellent chance to close the gap on the leaders. They are currently fourth and fifth in the SSV rankings.

Spain’s Ricardo Ramilo, Italian duo of Rebecca Busi and Michele Cinotto, and French veteran Claude Fournier round off the registered SSV entrants.

Presented by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and with the support of energy partner ADNOC Distribution, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has attracted further backing from Al-Futtaim Toyota, Abu Dhabi Aviation, Al-Ain Water, alongside governmental support from the Ministry of Defence and UAE Armed Forces, Abu Dhabi Police, Civil Defence, Abu Dhabi Distribution Co., Al-Dhafra Region Municipality, and Abu Dhabi Sports TV.

Speaking about the tradition of the Emirati event, H.E. Nasser Al-Mansoori, the undersecretary of the Ruler’s Representative Court of Al-Dhfara Region, said: “The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge represents H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan’s support for international level sporting events. His commitment to the sport brought the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, a high profile and far-reaching event, to this region long ago. For decades, it has continued to showcase the unique natural beauty and cultural wealth that Al-Dhafra has to offer the world.”

H.E. Aref Hamad Al-Awani, Secretary-General of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, added: “The Abu Dhabi Sports Council strongly believes in the importance of international events and the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is a jewel in the crown of the UAE’s sporting achievements. The proof of its relevance lies in the fact that it’s one of the oldest sporting events in the country and that it has continued to attract the very best competitors and the most passionate motor sport fans.”

Pre-event formalities will be based at the Abu Dhabi Energy Centre on Sunday, February 25th preceding the ceremonial start in the UAE capital and the Prologue in the nearby Al-Dhannah desert on Monday, February 26th.

Competitive action then switches to the UAE deserts in Al-Dhafra (western region) where crews will tackle five selective sections, including three loops through the remote Empty Quarter, near Liwa, in close proximity to the remote Mezaira’a bivouac that will host the event for three nights (February 28th-March 1st).

A shorter fifth stage on Saturday, March 2nd takes competitors from Mezaira’a  through the nearby deserts, back to Abu Dhabi, and then on towards the finish and a ceremonial prize giving at Abu Dhabi Nation Towers.

2024 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge  – Entries:

201. Guillaume de Mevius (BEL)/Xavier Panseri (FRA)Toyota Hilux Overdrive (Overdrive Racing)
202. Guerlain Chicherit (FRA)/Alex Winocq (FRA)Toyota Hilux Overdrive (Overdrive Racing)
203. Lucas Moraes (BRA)/Armand Monleón (ESP)

Toyota GR DKR Hilux (Toyota Gazoo Racing)

204. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Viktor Chytka (CZE)Ford Raptor RS Cross-Country (Orlen Jipocar Team)
205. Denis Krotov (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS)Toyota Hilux Overdrive (Overdrive Racing)
206. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Edouard Boulanger (FRA) Prodrive Hunter (Nasser Racing by Prodrive)
207. Cristian Baumgart (BRA)/Alberto Andreotti (BRA)Prodrive Hunter (X Rally Team Motorsport)
208. Saoud Variawa (ZAF)/François Cazalet (FRA)Toyota GR DKR Hilux (Toyota Gazoo Racing)
209. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU)Toyota Hilux Overdrive (Overdrive Racing)
210. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP)Toyota Hilux Overdrive (Overdrive Racing)
211. Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (DEU)Toyota GR DKR Hilux (Toyota Gazoo Racing)
212. Marcos Baumgart (BRA)/Kleber Cincea (BRA)Prodrive Hunter (X Rally Team Motorsports)
213. Pau Navarro (ESP)/Andreas Schulz (DEU) John Cooper Works Rally Plus (X-Raid Mini JCW)
214. Aliyyah Koloc (SYC)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA)Red-Lined Revo+ (Buggyra ZM Racing)
215. Lionel Baud (FRA)/Lucie Baud (FRA)Toyota Hilux Overdrive (Overdrive Racing)
216. Yahya Al-Helai (ARE)/Mohammed Hamri (ARE)Nissan Pick-Up*
217. Ahmed El-Shamy (EGY)/Hassan Ali Obaid (ARE)Fast & Speed 2WD*
218. Roman Starikovich (CYP)/Bert Heskes (NLD)Toyota Hilux*

*denotes not registered for W2RC


Challenger (W2RC only) 
301. Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP)Maverick X3 (Can-Am Factory Team)
302. Marcelo Tiglia Gastaldi (BRA)/Carlos Sachs (BRA)Taurus T3 Max 
303. Nicolas Cavigliasso (ARG)/Valentia Pertegarini (ARG)Taurus T3 Max (Taurus B.V.)
304. Austin Jones (USA)/Oriol Mena (ESP)Maverick X3 (Can-Am Factory Team)
305. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Stéphane Duplé (FRA)Taurus T3 Max


SSV (W2RC only) 
400. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Michael Metge (FRA)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR (Race World Team)
401. Sara Price (USA)/Jeremy Gray (USA)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR (South Racing Can-Am)
402. Joāo Ferreira (PRT)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR (Can-Am Factory)
403. Sebastian Guayasamin (ARG/Fernando Acosta (ARG)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR (FN Speed Team)
404. Enrico Gaspari (ITA)/Alberto Marcon (ITA)Polaris RZR Pro (TH Trucks Team)
405. Ricardo Ramilo (ESP)/Fausto Mota (PRT)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR
406. Rebecca Busi (ITA)/Sergio Lafuente (URY)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR (Onlyfans Racing)
407. Michele Cinotto (ITA)/Maurizio Dominella (ITA)Polaris RZR Pro R
408. Claude Fournier (FRA)/Serge Gounon (FRA)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR


Timetable of events 
Sunday, February 25  
Administration checksAbu Dhabi Energy Centre 
Press conferenceAbu Dhabi Energy Center
ScrutineeringAbu Dhabi Nation Towers – parking lot
Monday, February 26 
Ceremonial startAbu Dhabi Nation Towers
Prologue Al-Dhannah Desert
Tuesday, February 27 
Stage 1 Al-Dhannah to Al-Dhannah
Wednesday, February 28 
Stage 2 Al-Dhannah to Mezaira’a 
Thursday, February 29  
Stage 3  Mezaira’a to Mezaira’a
Friday, March 1 
Stage 4  Mezaira’a to Mezaira’a
Saturday, March 2 
Stage 5 Mezaira’a to Abu Dhabi Energy Centre 
Prizegiving ceremonyAbu Dhabi Nation Towers