Mohammed Ben Sulayem, FIA Vice President and President of the Emirates Motorsports Organization (EMSO) and the driving force behind the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, is a sporting ambassador for the Arab world and a man who has a permanent place in the record books of motor sport.
Sulayem launched the Challenge as the UAE Desert Challenge in 1991, and over the years, as Chairman of the Organizing Committee, has employed the same determination which made him the Middle East’s supreme rally driver to establish the event as a major international success.
In 2009, the event was renamed as the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
As a driver, he was Middle East Rally Champion 14 times, having scored 60 rally wins in the FIA Middle East series, and his impressive trail of victories also includes two Group N successes in the FIA World Rally Championship, in Spain and Argentina.
In April 2006 he took over as President of the Automobile & Touring Club for the UAE, now officially known as the Emirates Motorsports Organization, which is the officially nominated representative in the Emirates of both the FIA and its motor cycling counterpart, the FIM.
On their behalf, the EMSO supervises all organised motor sport events in the UAE for cars and bikes. The EMSO also provides a growing range of services for motoring tourists and travellers and runs a UAE-wide road assistance operation.
Sulayem captured his first FIA Middle East Rally Championship title in 1986, and has not been beaten to the Middle East crown since, winning it each year with the exception of 1992, 1993, and 1995 – years when he did not contest the series because of overseas rally programmes.
He last competed in 2002, although he has not officially retired from competitive rally driving. But whether he returns to the sport or not in the future, his record is unlikely ever to be seriously challenged.
Sulayem was the Middle East champion in: 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.