Aliyyah Koloc finishes Abu Dhabu Desert Challenge in excellent 7th place at her first attempt in the Ultimate category
Rally Raid
March 3, 2024

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has once more lived up to its name. After five difficult days of what was only her second participation in this testing off-road rally, and her first in the highest class, Aliyyah Koloc finished in an excellent 7th position in the Ultimate category and 13th amongst the registered FIA World Rally-Raid Championship runners. Her best stage result was 8th on the last day, competing against the heavyweights of off-road rallying like Nasser Al-Attiyah, Seth Quintero, or Martin Prokop along the way.

Being the only competitor in the Ultimate class without a turbo-driven engine and without the technical issues she faced, Aliyyah would certainly have been able to classify even higher, but she is happy with her result. “We finally finished the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. It was a really long five days with some very dangerous dunes, so I am happy to be at the finish safe and sound. The final stage was pretty enjoyable, the last 100 km literally flew by. I enjoyed it a lot, and we finished in a good position, so I am happy.”

Her navigator, experienced Frenchman Sébastien Delauney, summarized Aliyyah’s performance after the rally: “Aliyyah loves fast tracks, so she enjoyed the last day particularly. We are happy with the overall result as it was a very difficult rally. During the week, Aliyyah improved every day. In the beginning, she passed the dunes straight, but in the end, she used the car properly to slow down before the top. We focused on a safe race, and we didn’t have a lot of issues which is key in Abu Dhabi. Overall, it was a great race.”

Aliyyah Koloc, the 19-year-old Dubai-born driver racing for Buggyra ZM Racing, was prepared for a difficult rally right from the start. “I expect it to be difficult, it was one of the hardest races I did last year. It is a tricky race, and it will be even trickier in the new car. It is important to be careful and safe because it is hard to read the dunes. The T1+ has more power and is heavier, so that adds some challenges. Also, the dunes are very difficult, with a lot of broken dunes where it is easy to get stuck.”

Big, white dunes that make it hard to see and a lot of soft sand that makes it easy to get stuck in added to the challenges that Aliyyah and Sébastien faced. “Day 3 was quite good in the end. The stage was very tricky due to the rain yesterday. The sand was very, very soft. A lot of dunes with a lot of camber, so you had to anticipate your trajectory. But we did it. We never got stopped, we just landed on the nose for a moment and had to remove some plastic before continuing,” Sébastien explained some of the difficulties the duo faced. Aliyyah added: “Day 4 was a long day. We made a lot of mistakes, driver mistakes, navigation mistakes… It was difficult in the dunes, and we got stuck one time. We had to change the wheel once and the jack wasn’t working. It was quite tricky. Some dunes were really white, so it was difficult to see.”

Martin Koloc, Buggyra ZM Racing’s CEO and team principal said at the finish: “The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has been an incredible race. So hard. It is difficult to compare but at the Dakar, we had two hard days at the Empty Quarter. At the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, we had five consecutive days in the harshest possible desert conditions you can imagine, but we handled it well. The whole team is working tremendously well. Aliyyah has been progressing at each stage; she got better and better even though it is massively demanding for the drivers to keep focused each day for four hours or more. A lot of top drivers abandoned here which is just endorsing Aliyyah’s qualities and her race development. It was really hard, but we did well.”

For the next event, Aliyyah will switch back to endurance racing, with the 12h of Mugello, round 1 of the 24h Series, from March 22 – 24, making her quite a unique racer, combining such different series as off-road and endurance racing.

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