The 2010 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the season-opening round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, is all set to demonstrate “girl power” with female riders positioned to take off when the grueling five-day competitive spectacular gets underway on March 28.
Vicky White, a relative novice, makes a comeback to the Challenge following a two-year hiatus having finished 31st in the highly competitive and exhausting bikes category in 2007, but this time will straddle a Suzuki LTR 450 in the quads category.
White, a British national expatriate living in the UAE with a day job as a radio presenter, is thrilled to be back amongst the ominous dunes of The Empty Quarter “for the fun and joy” and, because as a competitor she will have the privilege of getting an “amazing view” of some of the world’s best riders.
“I have always wanted to compete on a quad, but in 2007 I entered the bikes category and despite training for over six months I realised in the end that it was an uphill ask. The bikes are tough to handle,” White said ahead of the prologue and ceremonial start which gets underway on March 27.
Surprisingly, White reveals that her entry was never planned for this year. “I was with a friend and spoke to him about my love for quads and how much I would love to compete when he suggested that I sign up for the Challenge.
“I suppose memories of 2007 helped me make a quick, brave decision,” White added.
Indeed a brave decision given that the local radio presenter has not had the time to train for an event that will take her through approximately 2,000 kilometers of treacherous and most often imposing sand dunes of The Empty Quarter.
In sharp contrast, Italian Camelia Liparoti-Baggiani is a seasoned campaigner having been crowned the women’s champion in last year’s edition of the Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
Camelia, who finished a credible 28th overall in the Challenge in 2009 in the company of some of the best quad riders in the world such as Sebastian Husseini and Obaid Echtibi, is expected to push her KTM 525 XC ATV to the limit in her quest for yet another top podium finish in the Championship.
Giving a huge thumbs up to the organizational skills of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the diminutive but tough Italian rider had told journalists the previous day: “The Desert Challenge is my favourite event in the World Championship and I am going to do my best for all the girls and women who want to compete like me.”
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, FIA Vice President, President of the UAE Motorcycle Club and Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, said he was delighted that more and more women were taking motorsport worldwide.
“I am glad that an increasing number of women are taking up the sport which, incidentally, is in line with what the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) also desires. In fact, the last WMSC meeting in Bahrain earlier this month endorsed the composition of a 19-member Women & Motor Sport Commission.
“The WMC aims to facilitate the full participation of women in all aspects of motor sport and set in place strategies and policies that will promote the education and training of women in motor sport,” Sulayem pointed out.
The UAEMC president also disclosed that 18 year old Maitha Al Ahli this month became the first Emirati female to have obtained an FIM karting competition license. “This is the beginning for Emirati women in motor sport, I am sure others will join young Maitha. This is a process, albeit a slow process but nevertheless a beginning has been made,” Sulayem said.