DUBAI // The head of a leading motorsports club has paid tribute to a Ukrainian rally driver who died after his car became trapped in a sand dune in the UAE’s Empty Quarter.
Vadym Nesterchuk, 42, a father of two, was believed to have been walking between his stranded vehicle and a nearby village when he collapsed from dehydration. His body was eventually found near Liwa Oasis by searchers using GPS.
Dr Mohammed ben Sulayem, president of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE and a former rally champion, said Nesterchuk was a popular figure.
“Vadym was a very popular competitor and we are deeply saddened by this tragic news,” said Dr ben Sulayem. “He will be sadly missed, and our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Nesterchuk was a regular competitor in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and finished fourth in last year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies in the T2 category.
Dr ben Sulayem said the touring club did not know Nesterchuk was in the UAE and should have been told of his plans to train alone in the desert.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian ministry of foreign affairs said: “The cause of his death was dehydration. He was training in the desert and his car had technical problems. He decided to walk to the nearest settlement and fell down dead.
“The police investigation is under way and the Ukrainian diplomatic mission is doing its best to solve the problem of the repatriation of the body. We don’t have any information so far on whether anyone was with him.”
Nesterchuk's death is the third in less than a week in the Empty Quarter. Last Friday, a Qatari man and his wife were found dead after losing their way in the Saudi Arabian part of the vast desert.
The touring club last year commissioned a report into dehydration in local motor-racing competitions.
Published in February this year, it found that 86 per cent of marshals at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, 61 per cent of those working on the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and 54 per cent of the volunteers for the Dubai Rally suffered from dehydration.
“As organisers of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, which takes place in some very remote desert areas, we go to great lengths to ensure the safety of competitors, volunteers, officials and all others involved,” said Dr ben Sulayem.
“We are always looking to do more to ensure the wellbeing of those taking part, and this is why we commissioned a report on hydration last year that will help organisers of motor sport events worldwide provide better protection for marshals, competitors and officials from the risk of dehydration.
“We are now sharing the results of the research with all relevant government ministries and sporting bodies internationally so that everyone can benefit.
“It is crucial that all stakeholders involved in motor sport at any level make sure that safety is always top priority.”