Rally: Sheikh Khalid wins Super Special Spectator Stage of Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Rally: Sheikh Khalid wins Super Special Spectator Stage of Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 24-29 March 2018

ABU DHABI – Peugeot-Abu Dhabi Racing Team driver and FIA Cross-Country 2WD champion Sheikh Khalid Bin Faisal Al Qassimi ended joint fastest in Saturday’s Super Special Spectator Stage to stamp his class for his title defence at the 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

Sheikh Khalid finished the Super Special Spectator Stage over a 1.9km distance on the Yas Marina Circuit with a time of 1 minute, 11.1 seconds to pitch himself as the driver to beat as the rally heads out into the Al Dhafra desert over the next four days.

However, his biggest opponent Dubai International Baja champion Jakub Przygonski was tied with an identical time of 1:11.1 minutes to bare open their challenge for the crown when the competition concludes next Thursday.

Driving his Peugeot Abu Dhabi Racing Team 3008 DKR with Frenchman Xavier Panseri as co-driver, Sheikh Khalid is one of the strong favourites leading a powerful line-up of 37 cars and buggies when the opening leg starts on Sunday morning.

As per regulations governing the sport, drivers are allowed to choose their starting position and Sheikh Khalid chose to commence Sunday’s Leg One in seventh position behind noteworthy names such as Przygonski.

“The usual practice among drivers is that we try and pick up a position further down the order as we tend to get better lines for driving during the course of the race. But in my case I wanted to stay very close to drivers that I feel are among the strongest challengers to the defence of my title,” Sheikh Khalid said after Saturday’s Super Special Stage.

“From experience I know that these drivers are fast, and they’ve proved this during the last rally [Dubai International Baja]. They have a lot of experience in cross country racing especially in the Desert Challenge. So I just wanted to be behind them so that I can stay close to them. So the strategy is to choose fast drivers so that you will get less dust and clear lines to go for it,” he added.

Organised by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE), the rally has attracted a total of 112 competitors from 28 countries, contesting in the third round of the 2018 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and buggies and the opening round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes and quads.