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69 days before the start to the Dakar Rally the UAE Desert Challenge (28 October to 2 November) not only represents the traditional “warm-up” for the desert classic in January, but also gives Volkswagen the opportunity to win the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup for the second time after 2005. As a fitting complement, the Race Touareg will celebrate an “anniversary”: the World Cup finale marks the 20th competition for the Race Touareg powered by a 280-hp 2.5-litre TDI diesel engine. Since its début in the 2004 Dakar Rally the prototype has clinched as many as seven overall victories, 22 podium positions and 60 stage victories.

Volkswagen is fielding two Race Touareg cars for World Cup front runners Carlos Sainz/Michel Périn (Spain/France) as well as for Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (South Africa/Germany). In the seemingly endless sand desert in the hinterland of Dubai and Abu Dhabi they will also be meeting the Mitsubishi factory team, which will contest the event with French drivers Luc Alphand and Stéphane Peterhansel as well as with Nani Roma (Spain). The X-Raid team will be represented with two BMW cars for Bruno Saby (Spain) and Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar).
 
"Not least on account of the competition with our strongest rivals the UAE Desert Challenge offers the last opportunity for us to assess where we stand prior to the start of the Dakar Rally,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "Both Race Touareg vehicles use the technical specification we’ve established for the ‘Dakar’. A successful rally in Dubai would be the optimum conclusion of our long preparations for the ‘Dakar’.”

Sainz/Périn go to Dubai as World Cup leaders
 
Volkswagen factory driver Carlos Sainz can hardly wait for the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup season’s finale. After winning the Transibérico Rally and finishing the Morocco Rally as the runner-up the Spaniard, together with his co-driver Michel Périn, is leading the World Cup with a six-point advantage. "Of course we want to clinch another victory for Volkswagen and win the championship that way,” states Sainz, who would be sure of the title by finishing either in first or in second place. "In addition, the UAE Desert Challenge gives us the last opportunity to test the ‘Dakar’ version of our Race Touareg in competitive conditions.”
 
After his victory at the Morocco Rally in September Volkswagen factory driver Giniel de Villiers is looking forward to the competition in the United Arab Emirates as well. "The Morocco Rally simply went like a charm for us, the Race Touareg’s handling in deep sand was impressive and the teamwork with my do-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz was perfect,” says the South African. "At the UAE Desert Challenge we’ll be meeting two strong rivals. I’m eager to see where we stand in comparison to our direct competition.”
 
Co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz adds: "Particularly the extreme heat of 40 degrees centigrade and above represents a real challenge. We practice in a sauna to prepare for the high temperatures awaiting us during the rally.” However, the navigation during the UAE Desert Challenge bears little resemblance to the Dakar Rally. "Unlike at the ‘Dakar’, there are many visible way points here, which we can target with our GPS equipment,” explains the German who, after contesting the event on a motorcycle and in a car once before, will now be competing in the desert classic for the third time. "This means that for the co-driver this rally is no navigation practice for the ‘Dakar‘ where you primarily rely on the road book.”
 
As in previous years, on four evenings the teams will head for a bivouac near Moreeb, about 350 kilometres from Dubai and Abu Dhabi. "In the extremely high sand dunes around Moreeb the starting position for the next leg is very important,” explains Michel Périn, the co-driver of Volkswagen factory driver Carlos Sainz. "The teams starting later have an easier time as they’re able to follow the tracks of the first vehicles. In addition, the soft sand dunes don’t forgive any mistakes. If you get stuck for any extended period you lose time that’s very difficult to make up during the remainder of the event.”
 
UAE Desert Challenge with focal area in the desert region near Moreeb
 
The UAE Desert Challenge encompasses five stages and 1500 timed kilometres on a route through the desert region south of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The event will start on the afternoon of 28 October with a short "super special stage” near Dubai. The following day the Volkswagen factory drivers and their rivals will be heading from Dubai for the desert bivouac at Moreeb. From there, three loops around Moreeb will be driven before the teams start to a 287-kilometre final stage from Moreeb to Dubai on Friday, 2 November, where the rally and world cup winners are expected to arrive in the afternoon.
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