Sulayem launches study aimed at reducing risk of accidents; findings could be invaluable to FIA, FIM, rally organisers  

Dr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, ATCUAE President and FIA Vice President, with Dr. Tadhg MacIntyre, Lecturer In Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology at the University of Limerick in Ireland.

Dubai, UAE, 4 March, 2014:  A first of its kind study into the effects of fatigue on drivers and riders contesting the 2014 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in April could help reduce the threat of accidents and injuries to competitors in international cross country rallying.

The findings of a  research team being assembled by the rally organisers, the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE, will be presented to the FIA, motor sport’s world governing body, and the FIM, the International Motorcycling Federation, and also made available to other national motor sport authorities and event organisers worldwide.

“Safety in the Desert Challenge is our No.1 priority, as it is for all rally organisers, and the extensive scientific research we are carrying out at this year’s event will examine much closer than ever before how fatigue affects riders contesting events of this nature,” said ATCUAE President and FIA Vice President, Dr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

“Our objective is to make the sport safer for all competitors by reducing the risk of accidents, and the report of the research team will be invaluable to the FIA and the FIM.”

The ATCUAE research team will be led by Dr. Tadhg MacIntyre, Lecturer In Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology at the University of Limerick in Ireland. He will work closely with Dr. Sean Petherbridge, the ATCUAE’s Chief Medical Officer, and other members of the club’s research division, the Motorsport Knowledge Institute.

“We will study the effects of fatigue on cognitive processes and competitor attention in order to assess the risk of competitor error,” said Dr. MacIntyre, who was in the UAE last week as one of the keynote speakers at a sports psychology conference taking place in Al Ain.

“The aim is to assess how tired competitors become during endurance events and how that relates to their response time, and make recommendations on acceptable levels of fatigue in order to reduce the chances of accidents and injury.  It will improve the development of both driver assistive technology and interventions to reduce the incidence of accidents in both motor sport and in everyday settings.”

Dr. MacIntyre will link up with 16 medical staff who will follow the rally in helicopters, and with the 4WD sweep teams tracking the route through the deserts of the UAE’s Western Region of Al Garbia. 

Taking place from 3-10 April, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is the third round of the 2014 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, and the first round of the 2014 FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes and quads.

It attracts most of the world’s top drivers and riders, and last year produced a double Spanish triumph, with Nani Roma taking the cars title and fellow-countryman Marc Coma winning the bikes category, as they did in this year’s Dakar Rally.

The new study is another example of the UAE taking a prominent role in the field of sports science research. The ATCUAE last year published a research document aimed at helping sports event organisers worldwide provide better protection for marshals and officials from the risk of dehydration.  This was based on research carried out during the F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Desert Challenge and the Dubai International Rally.

As the findings and recommendations of the study were not limited to motor sport, or restricted to the Middle East, they were distributed worldwide for the benefit of any sporting organisation requiring its staff to work in high temperatures.

Dr. MacIntyre was a keynote speaker on the final day of the 1st International Conference in Sport Psychology and Embodied Cognition, held under the patronage of UAE University and Abu Dhabi Sports Council and taking place at the Maqam Campus, Al Ain.