The UAE Rally Team of Yayha Al-Helai and Khaled Al-Kendi was in Portugal preparing for the gruelling 2009 Transiberico Rally, the final round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. The event started in Estoril, near Lisbon, on Thursday, June 18th and finished on Sunday, June 21st. The UAE driver is bidding to become the second ever UAE driver to win the prestigious FIA World Cup and will line-up at the start in Portugal at the wheel of a powerful Nissan Patrol that has been prepared by the Dubai-based company, Powertec Performance Engineering.
Al-Helai also holds second overall in the FIA T2 Production category - a mere four points behind Russian Artem Varentsov - and has the possibility of a superb winning double in Portugal. He is a veteran of numerous UAE Desert Challenge events and has finished second overall on the region’s most punishing long-distance rally, but he knows that he will need to be on his best form to clinch the FIA World Cup. The Emirati lies third in the points’ standings and nine points behind Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit from the professional BMW team. Chicherit won this year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and scored points in the Tunisian round of the series and starts as the favourite to give the X-raid team a second successive title. But Al-Helai would dearly love to follow in Khalifa Al-Mutawei’s footsteps and bring the world title back to the UAE.
"I know it will not be easy to win the race and take more points than the BMW, but the team at Powertec have done a great job with the car and we are all raring to go," said a determined Al-Helai.
Powertec spokesman Ian Davies confirmed that nothing has been left to chance in their preparations for the Transiberico event, which runs for four days over rural terrain in Portugal and western Spain. "Yayha is a very talented driver and he is looking forward to the challenge," said Davies. "We flew the Nissan out to Portugal in good time and will be focused in our preparations over the coming days, both for the World Cup and the T2 title."
The official event timetable kicks off with scrutineering, documentation and the ceremonial started on Wednesday, June 17th. Teams then leave Estoril in the direction of Castelo Branco on June 18th and tackle a short special stage and a longer timed selective section, before reaching the overnight halt. Day two takes crews from Castelo Branco across the border into Spain to the overnight halt at Merida. En route, X-raid crews will tackle two further selective sections of approximately 150km each with a service stop scheduled in Valverde del Fresno. The third leg leaves Merida en route to Beja and included two slightly longer selective sections with a service stop in Mora. The fourth and final leg on Sunday, June 21st toke place between Beja and Estoril and included two sections of approximately 180km apiece, with the ceremonial finish in Estoril’s Casino Gardens bringing the official timetable to a close from 6pm.