Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates): Yazeed Al Rajhi, the reigning champion of the Abu Dhabi Desert Rally, is gearing up for another expedition to the UAE desert. Ready to participate in the 33rd edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, this competition marks the second round of the World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC). As part of his campaign to maintain the honor of his team, Al Rajhi will be driving a Toyota Hilux supported by “Jameel Motorsport” between February 25 and March 2.

In terms of navigation, Al Rajhi will rely on the expertise of Timo Gottschalk, who has been his companion on numerous desert rallies worldwide from 2014 until early 2019, Timo and Yazeed came back together and won many Baja rallies and Rally-Raid rallies in the last season (2023). However, they won their first Abu Dhabi Desert Rally title in the Saudi driver’s career.

The Saudi motorsports ambassador, Yazeed Al Rajhi, will tackle five stages, starting with a qualifying stage, driving a Toyota Hilux prepared by the Belgian Overdrive Racing team, as this year, the rally routes turn back to Mzeer’ah after 22 years.

Extending across a distance of 1,902 kilometers, with 1,179 kilometers dedicated to selective sections, the first leg of the race will go through Al Dhannah, where participants will spend two nights in a camp that has been specially constructed for the occasion. Then, for the first time since 2002, the competition will take place at Mzree’ah in the Liwa region. The rally will travel over 55%  of the open desert and 35%  through the beautiful dunes of the Liwa desert, which is recognized as the cultural treasure of the Empty Quarter.

The reigning Abu Dhabi Rally champion, Al Rajhi is keen to win the UAE Desert Challenge Rally with co-driver Gottschalk so that he can make it two wins in a row aboard their Toyota Hilux.

The Dakar Rally 2024, which took place last month, and the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge are the first two of five races that make up the W2RC championship. After the canceled Sonora Rally in Mexico, the championship returns to Europe for the Transiberico Rally in Portugal, which includes stages in Spain. The Desafio Ruta 40 Rally in Argentina will then come before the championship’s final round in Morocco.

This season, Yazeed Al Rajhi competes in two international calendar events run by the (FIA): the W2RC (Rally-Raid) and the FIA World Cup Baja. He also participates in the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally event, a local event in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi motorsports legend Yazeed Al Rajhi expressed his excitement about the participation, saying, “I am very thrilled to participate in the Abu Dhabi Rally alongside my navigator Timo.

“I’m taking part in this rally for the ninth time, and we were victorious here the previous year, I look forward to winning again here.”

“The race is returning to Mzree’ah in the Liwa region for the first time since 2002, when I had not even started my motorsports career, so the new routes this season are highly anticipated, and I’m excited.”

“We intend to win the championship at the end of the year, but we have a long road ahead of us in this competition. I am genuinely happy and proud of Timo and the team. We have the pace, the quick car, and the support of Jameel Motorsport.”

Having won this round the previous year, Timo Gottschalk was excited to be back in it. He said, “I am truly happy to be alongside my friend Yazeed, and we aspire to win together and achieve more cups and gold medals this season.”

“I’m excited and hoping that this round turns out well for us both. This is a place of intense rivalry, especially on the softer sands and dunes. These are challenging courses, so we need to focus on the navigation to ensure that we have championship points.”

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