Abu Dhabi Racing boss and driver Sheikh Khalid bin Faisal Al Qassimi and co-driver Khalid Al Kendi created history on Thursday when they became the first Emiratis to win the prestigious Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge ever since it was made an event of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies. Sheikh Khalid won the fifth and final stage of the challenge to seal the top spot on the podium in the overall classifications. With this victory, coupled with his second place finish at the Dubai International Baja last month, Sheikh Khalid now leads the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies championship, subject to confirmation from the FIA.
Covering a distance of 219.76km on the final stage, named after Abu Dhabi Aviation, Sheikh Khalid averaged speeds of a little over 84km per hour behind the wheel of the latest 3008 DKR run by PH Sport through the dunes of the Rub Al Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter, clocking a time of 2.46:23. Over five days of racing, Sheikh Khalid clocked a total time of 19.16:24:8 covering a distance of a little over 1,300km. Sheikh Khalid beat his nearest rival, Martin Prokop from the Czech Republic, by a little over 41min to seal the title. The victory is historic in the sense that no Emirati has won the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge ever since it was made a round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies in March 2009, not since Mohammed Mattar won it from 1991-92 when the event was known as the UAE Desert Challenge."
Sheikh Khalid Bin Faisal Al Qassimi said: "To be honest, I went out there to continue my learning curve as I have now done about five cross country rallies. Both I and the team pushed ourselves hard. It was not easy, we had a lot of problems especially on the fourth day where we got stuck and then had to repair a damaged drive shaft. That is the nature of cross country rallying. This is the 27th year of this event and I think I am the first Emirati in 25 years to win here especially after the event was put on the FIA calendar. This result is fantastic for Abu Dhabi because a driver and team from Abu Dhabi has won not just final stage but also the title. I am not in the championship but I will wait and see if we can do a couple of more events and we are there near the top then may be. It will be difficult because we have other events that clash with the calendar. Let us wait and see. I must point out here that we are at this juncture of success largely due to the support from our leaders especially Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and I dedicate this victory to him."
Up next for Sheikh Khalid is the Qatar Cross Country Rally, Round 4 of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, from April 17-22."