Dubai: The UAE’s Shaikh Khalid Al Qasimi will be looking at taking the next logical step to the top of the podium when the Dubai International Baja powered by Nissan and AW Rostamani takes off in earnest in the Al Qudra desert on Friday morning.
Partnered by French co-driver Xavier Panseri in his Peugeot Abu Dhabi Racing Team 3008 DKR, Shaikh Khalid will start as hot favourite to go one spot better than his runner-up position at last year’s rally — the second round of the 2018 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and buggies.
The ceremonial start was held late on Thursday at the Dubai Autodrome and the action in the desert will begin on Friday when a line-up of 58 cars, buggies, bikes and quads tackle a demanding route twisting across the dunes and plains over 548km.
Shaikh Khalid, who has been given the top-seeding, successfully completed testing his new Peugeot 3008 DKR in the desert last week. “Testing the new car in the desert gave us a lot of confidence. We got a better feel of the car, and even though the specs are different from the Maxi version, I feel we will have an advantage as we set the pace from the front,” Shaikh Khalid said.
“The competition is always tough here with a number of international and local drivers. So we will not underestimate any of the, but stick to our task of bringing home the car safely,” he added.
“I’m delighted to be the official Peugeot driver. Our partnership with Peugeot Middle East is very important to me and Abu Dhabi Racing. We are highly motivated to continue achieving great results.”
The Peugeot 3008 DKR ruled the 2017 Dakar Rally with an emphatic 1-2-3 finish easily brushing off any opposition away on the road to victory. This year Peugeot cemented its dominance by winning the event again with its Peugeot 3008 DKR.
Cedric Zayoun, Managing Director of the GCC region at Peugeot makers PSA Group, stressed the Group’s keenness to support motorsport in the region and take part in different rallies especially the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, which has become a mainstay on the international motorsport calendar. He said: “We would like to congratulate Shaikh Khalid ... We are very proud of him as a Peugeot ambassador who is always eager to reflect the brand’s image at its best and look forward to seeing him achieve great results with us in 2018.”