Ricky Brabec and rivals set for ultimate test at Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

From March 4-10, drivers will compete in one of the toughest cross-country rally events on the planet

Ricky Brabec in action during the 2022 Dakar Rally, where he went on to place seventh. Reuters
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As the drivers gear up for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, now 31 years in the making, there is a feeling of anxiety in the air.

Following on from January’s Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, this event is a crucial leg of the 2022 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship, which sees contestants battle it out on the world’s toughest dirt routes in Kazakhstan, Spain, and Morocco.

The catch in Abu Dhabi: the route for each stage of the race is only revealed on the morning before the race commences.

Ricky Brabec, the 2020 Dakar Rally champion, made light of the situation before the race. “I'm guessing we are going to have a hefty serving of sand,” he said.

From March 4-10, drivers will compete in one of the toughest cross-country rally events on the planet. The Al Dhafra dunes will provide the dramatic backdrop to stories of success and of catastrophic failure.

On the competition listings, 50 motorbike and quad riders, 38 rally drivers, and a handful of trucks are set to race on the dunes. That is before the inevitable dropouts, breakdowns, and drivers who don’t make it to the finish line.

“It feels great to be out here in Abu Dhabi competing again,” Brabec said. “My bike is as good as it’s going to get for this event.”

Other riders seemed less confident and on scrutineering day. When the vehicles are checked over to ensure they meet the race’s technical regulations, there were several nervous-looking faces.

Plenty of preparation goes into a race like this, especially off the back of the Dakar where riders learn a lot about themselves and their vehicles.

“We have been here for seven days already and have done a lot of training. Now it’s time to go to work and give it our best until the end of the rally”, Brabec said.

The event organisers were sure to point out that this year's competition will be fierce in the motorcycle category.

“While 14 of the world’s leading factory team stars are in a powerful line-up of 50 riders, only Sam Sunderland, Toby Price, Pablo Quintanilla, and defending champion Matthias Walkner have stood on the victory podium in Abu Dhabi,” they said.

Updated: March 05, 2022, 7:15 AM