This year's desert challenge race goes green

The UAE's recent sandstorms could pose a problem for competitors in this year's Desert Challenge race.

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ABU DHABI // Whenthe 22nd Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge gets under way on Monday, competitors will face a fresh hazard: sand dunes softened by the recent bad weather.

This week's blustering winds carried with them huge quantities of dust, which is a worry for the drivers and riders taking part in the 2,000 kilometre cross-rally race.

"I am worried about the weather this year," said Mohammed Balooshi, an Emirati biker. "The weather will definitely play an important part."

He was speaking at a press conference yesterday announcing details of the race that will begin in the Liwa desert.

The Abu Dhabi race is one of the most demanding rallies in the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) Cross Country Rally World Cup, taking participants through the Liwa desert and the Moreeb area of Abu Dhabi's Empty Quarter.

Mr Balooshi said sandstorms can soften the dunes. "This is because of the continuous wind for the last four days," said Mr Balooshi, who is recovering from a shoulder and hand injury. "We have to be very cautious and very smart to tackle these dunes."

The race, which ends in a week, will include 122 competitors from 35 countries, with 45 four-wheel drive vehicles, and 77 motorcycles and quad bikes.

It will be the first time the race has been carbon neutral, with the carbon emissions from all 200 vehicles, including five helicopters and official cars, offset.

The Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the organisers of the race, partnered with the US-based company Advanced Green Technologies to study how much carbon dioxide would be produced during the event.

"We will then offset the emissions by buying credit from different environmentally accredited organisations to be a zero-carbon emission race," said Mahir Badri, the Automobile and Touring Club's chief executive.

"We have to go with the environment and become green, it's very important for us and it's the future for us to move forward."