The legendary UAE Desert Challenge, one of the world’s most prestigious international cross country rallies founded by Emirati Motorsport legend and ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem back in 1991,and, over the years has seen many of the biggest names in international motorsport tackle the dunes of the UAE, including Carlos Sainz, Colin McRae, Ari Vatenan, and Heinz Kinigadner. Following his victory in 2015, Marc Coma currently holds the record of eight ADDC titles, winning all but two rallies between 2006 and his retirement in 2015.
The event entered a new era in March 2009 when it was renamed the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with the five-day motor sport spectacular being staged in its entirety across Abu Dhabi emirate under the auspices of the Abu Dhabi Government, with the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) retaining its event organizational role.
Having celebrated its 26th event in 2016, the 2017 event returns bigger and better as the opening round of the 2017 FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship and the third round of the 2017 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup, continuing its role as one of Abu Dhabi’s most historic sporting events. This season will see the event follow on from the Dubai International Baja (9th to 11th March 2017), which makes its debut as a round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup (making the UAE the only country to host two events in that championship) and the FIM Bajas World Cup.
While previous Desert Challenges have seen motorbike, quad-bike, four wheel and truck competitors battle cross-emirate stages, the event in recent years has gradually migrated towards a majority routing through Abu Dhabi’s majestic desert areas.
During the Challenge, competitors face two days of documentation and scrutineering on a Thursday and Friday, before a Super Special Stage on a Saturday to decides the starting order. The rally then begins in earnest first thing Sunday morning when the competitors leave the initial Rally HQ at the famous Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi to begin five days in the Liwa Desert of the Empty Quarter.