Some of the most successful and experienced desert and safari motorsports competitors from across three continents rounded off the first ever Sharjah Sports Desert Festival 2017 (SSDF), at Al Badayer desert with a series of intense off-road battles to take the inaugural titles of ‘Desert Heroes’.
In what organisers described as a great addition to the UAE sporting calendar, SSDF 2017, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah was themed ‘Become a Desert Hero’ and the winners in each of the four categories – UTVs, ATVs and MX1 and MX2 motorcross bikes proved worthy of the titles.
The time trials finals for UTV’s, which are built for the right combination of low weight and high speed was won by Emarati racer Majid Al Miza who came through a set of tough qualifiers to clinch first place. In the ATV class, Obaid Al Kitby, also from the UAE, was the eventual winner. In the two quad bike categories, which tested the stamina of both man and machine, Ross James Rutherford won the MX1 class course and Matthew Burrows claimed victory in MX2, beating stiff competition from international rivals.
Winners of the three categories each received AED 10,000, second places were awarded AED 5,000 and those in third place won AED 3,000.
Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Media Corporation, said the event had added great value in enhancing Sharjah’s reputation as a prime destination for sporting excellence: "The quality of the event and the calibre of the participants is an excellent example of how Sharjah is committed to providing not only the facilities, but also the expertise on delivering world class sports.
"As well as the people of Sharjah who benefit from these events, this sends a clear message to the international sporting community that we are ready, willing and able to host world class competitions."
The award-ceremony was attended by Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmad Al Qasimi, Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed bin Khalid Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Sports Council, Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism, Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) Mohammed Hasan Khalaf, Director of Sharjah Radio and Television at Sharjah Media Corporation, Rashed Al Obed, Director of the Sharjah Sports Channel, Amer Ali Al Ghethi, Director of Events and Activities at the Sharjah Sports Channel as well as members from multiple entities in Sharjah.
The event brought together all the sights, sounds, thrills and spills of a world-class desert rally, with the most demanding courses and daring corners to negotiate. Over the course of the event, spectators were treated to truly world-class performances.
Rashed Al Obed, Director of Sharjah Sports Channel said, "We are absolutely delighted with the response this event has brought from both competitors and spectators alike. All drivers and riders had to dig deep to produce the ultimate displays of control and skill to contend with torrential rain and severe winds as well as the gruelling track.
"We have seen some outstanding racing from the very best participants in the sport and while the terrain here is extremely challenging, it is perfect for the level of expertise we have seen throughout the competition. We have had more than 150 participants from the UAE, the UK, Bahrain, Germany and South Africa and I believe we have provided the very best in terms of sporting events and Sharjah’s love of live action sport has once again shone through."
With a racetrack designed by Emirati motocross and MX rally champion Mohammed Al Balooshi, SSDF 2017 was the first-of-its-kind desert off-roading experience in Sharjah and the Northern Emirates. Al Balooshi was crowned Tunisia Arab Champion for the second year in a row in 2010 and also led the Red Bull ‘Under My Wings’ project in the UAE. He was the first Emirati to participate in the Dakar Rally, and was responsible for monitoring the racing events to ensure the contestants adhered to the festival’s rules and regulations.
Strategically located in Sharjah, Al Badayer Desert is one of the UAE’s most important winter desert destinations, renowned for its dunes and the beauty of its desert nature. The location attracts outdoor adventurers who make the most of its rugged environment to go camping, take safari trips and enjoy challenging off-road driving.