UAE: Desert Challenge unites torn countries of Ukraine and Russia
Dubai, UAE, 4 April, 2014: While the Crimean crisis continues under a global spotlight, Russians and Ukrainians are united by sport in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
The flags of the two countries are being proudly flown together by a team taking part in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED BY Nissan.
When the event starts in the UAE capital tomorrow, five top Russian drivers and riders go into action led by a Ukrainian team manager, their cars and bikes attended by mechanics from Kiev.
Dubai-based Ukrainian Vadim Pritulyak, General Manager of the VVI Rally Team, says: “What is happening now on the Ukrainian border is very sad. All Ukrainians and Russians share the same languages and culture.
“My brother was a colonel in the Russian army and I was a company leader in the special forces of the Ukrainian airborne regiment, and there is no way we would ever fight against each other.
It’s politics that makes war, not people, and we are proud to fly the Russian and Ukrainian flags together in solidarity in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.”
Starting with a super special spectator stage beside Yas Marina Circuit at 3pm tomorrow (Saturday), the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is the third round of the 2014 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars, and the opening round of this year’s FIM Cross Country Rallies
World Championship for bikes.
Pritulyak, who rode a motor bike on the event in 2011 and 2012, launched his own company in Dubai six months ago, offering desert rally training for riders and drivers and building rally bikes.
The team’s two Russian drivers are Anton Grigorov, who has competed in the Dakar Rally three times, and Andrey Rudskoy, current production category leader in the FIA World Cup series.
The three Russian riders are Aleksei Nikishin and Renat Valiullin, two Russian Enduro championship-winning team-mates, and one of the handful of lady competitors taking part, Anastasiya Nifontova, a Russian Supermoto champion.
Supporting them are four car mechanics from Kiev, three correspondents, two Ukrainian and the other a Russian, as well as the team’s Ukrainian co-founder, Vladislav Kushchynsky.
“We’re very happy to welcome competitors and other members of the same team proudly flying the flags of Russia and Ukraine,” said rally founder Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE and FIA Vice President. “This shows the power of sport to unite people even in the most difficult circumstances.”
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, which is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region, has attracted 108 drivers and riders from 32 countries.
Following tomorrow’s (Saturday) super special spectator stage on Yas Island, the competitors head off into the deserts of the UAE’s Western Region of Al Garbia for five days of dramatic rallying among giant dunes. The event finishes back on Yas Island next Thursday afternoon.