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World-class line-up ready for action in Abu Dhabi desert challenge

22 Feb 2023

A strong line-up of over 150 competitors from around the world is starting to gather for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (ADDC). Teams from all over are arriving in the UAE capital as their preparations begin for the eagerly awaited showdown from 25 February to 3 March.

Subscription growth in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2023.

Subscription growth in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2023.

The entry list for the Desert Challenge has grown by nearly 35% since last year, as established talent were tempted back and upcoming talent were encouraged to compete in what is now the second round in the World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).

Rally organizers, the Emirates Motorsports Organization (EMSO), have released the final entry list, with anticipation high for yet another epic battle in the Desert Challenge, presented by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

A selection of the world class drivers from around the world... and a new challenge for Nasser Al-Attiyah.

A selection of the world class drivers from around the world... and a new challenge for Nasser Al-Attiyah.

H.E. Aref Al Awani, Secretary General of the ADSC, said: We appreciate the pioneering role of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative Court in Al Dhafra Region, and his generous sponsorship of this 32nd edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

The event comes as an extension of Abu Dhabi's pioneering efforts in hosting elite international sporting events, and the wider mission to become the ideal destination for the best athletes in the world.

We, in the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, attach great importance to harnessing all the capabilities and elements of success for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. The event has attracted a group of promising drivers and riders from all over the world, and promises to highlight the desert terrain in the Al Dhafra region - which provides a different and challenging driving experience.

We are confident in the success of the upcoming edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, with the concerted efforts and expertise of the EMSO and all the supporters, sponsors, and partners from governmental and private institutions.

Top contenders from all over have signed up to take on one of the most demanding routes in the calendar.

Defending W2RC Champion Nasser Al-Attiyah enters the Desert Challenge under pressure, sitting two points behind Sébastien Loeb in the standings. Rounding out the top three is Guerlain Chicherit, who won two stages in the Dakar Rally which opened the 2023 championship.

On the bikes, the best from the FIM championship will take on the Empty Quarter. Sam Sunderland, who chases down his fourth ADDC victory, will take on championship leader Kevin Benavides, and current runner-up Toby Price - the 2016 winner in Abu Dhabi.

Winners of the 2022 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas and FIM Bajas World Cup, Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Konrad Dabrowski, will also be taking to the dunes of Al Dhafra for honours in the Desert Challenge.

Alongside these familiar faces, there will be fresh talent at this year’s ADDC, as the sport of cross-country rallying attracts competitors from far corners of the world to the UAE.

Chinese manufacturer BAIC enters the Desert Challenge for the first time, with drivers Yungang Zi, Yunliang Zi, Guoyu Zhang pushing themselves to the limit in the deserts of Abu Dhabi. Also hailing from China, Tian Po and Han Wei will be racing for the Hanwei motorsport team, while Japanese driver Shinsuke Umeda and rider Yoshio Ikemachi represent more exciting talent from the far East.

The increase in participation in the ADDC comes as a result of years of work and demonstrates the success of the rally's new format as part of the World Rally-Raid Championship, guided under the authority of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

Khalid Bin Sulayem, the EMSO’s President, commented: We’re excited to be welcoming the World Rally-Raid Championship back to the UAE for a second time.

The EMSO continues to work hard to build upon the 32 year history of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in an innovative and sustainable way, and we could not do this without our collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

Our long-term partnership with the Sports Council extends beyond our work on the Desert Challenge, and embodies the progress we are making towards a strong future for our local community that is centred around sporting events.

Alongside promoting the region as a hub for international sport, the council strives to further engage the community. Surrounded by natural desert terrain, the people of the UAE have formed a passion for rally-raid that reaches its pinnacle with the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.


The cross-country rally is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The tussle for supremacy on both four wheels and two wheels during the Middle East’s most established cross-country rally is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative Court in Al Dhafra Region; presented by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council; with the support of this year’s Energy partner ADNOC Distribution; Automotive partner Al-Futtaim Toyota; Abu Dhabi Aviation; Al Ain Water; Governmental support from the Ministry of Defence & UAE Armed Forces , Abu Dhabi Police, Civil Defence, Abu Dhabi Distribution Co, Al Dhafra Region Municipality, and our media partner Abu Dhabi Sports TV.

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