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DUBAI RALLY GIVES MIDDLE EAST TITLE RACE BIG FINISH

7 November, 2012

UAE drivers aim to block Al Attiyah’s path to victory over National Day weekend as regional series heads for new era

Flashback – H.H. Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum flags off last year’s Dubai International Rally at the ceremonial start.

Flashback – H.H. Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum flags off last year’s Dubai International Rally at the ceremonial start.

Dubai, UAE, 7 November, 2012:  The Dubai International Rally is set to provide another tense climax to the FIA Middle East Championship over UAE National Day weekend before the regional series enters a new era next season.

After his penultimate round victory in Cyprus last weekend, Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah now heads into the 34th Dubai International Rally from November 29-December 1 as the overwhelming favourite to win the event for the eighth time and retain his Middle East title.

But while he will arrive in Dubai full of confidence as he tries to secure an eighth Middle East crown, the Qatari knows he must avoid the kind of disaster which hit his fellow-countryman, Abdul Aziz Al Kuwari, in Cyprus.

Leading the title race by nine points from Al Attiyah at the start of the fifth round, Al Kuwari crashed out of the event in his Mini early on the second leg, underlining the uncertainties of rallying.

He will be determined to get back on track in Dubai, while a cluster of UAE drivers will also be aiming to pile the pressure on Al Attiyah in the hope of presenting the host country with a home victory to mark the National Day celebrations.

Among them will be Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, the Dubai Rally winner in 2005 and 2006, who is preparing for a return to World Rally Championship action next season with the

Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.

His brother, Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi, will be looking to climb from his current seventh position in the FIA Middle East Championship drivers’ standings.

The most powerful UAE challenger, however, could be Rashid Al Ketbi, who has yet to win the Dubai Rally title but has produced some stunning displays in the event, including last year when he led at the half way point before finishing second, 46.9 seconds behind Al Attiyah.

The 2012 Dubai International Rally is endorsed by the office of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

Organised by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) the rally will have its ceremonial start on Emaar Boulevard, in Old Town Dubai, at 7.30pm on Thursday, 29 November.

The rally action begins in earnest the following morning, with six Leg 1 special stages running in the Malaiha and Shawka area, all easily located from the Sharjah-Kalba Road. 

Another six special stages on Saturday’s Leg 2 are in the Al Dhaid area and are easily located from the Sharjah-Kalba Road or the Al Dhaid Road. The survivors will reach the finish back on Emaar Boulevard, Old Town Dubai, at 4.30pm on Saturday 1 December.

It is expected to be the last Middle East Championship event before the FIA regional series takes on a new look next season, with four additional title races being created to attract young driving talent and boost entries overall.

The idea to create three new parallel championships within the series – for Group N production cars, young drivers, and 2WD vehicles – and also introduce a T3 category for the first time for 2WD and 4WD buggies, has been driven by ATCUAE President Dr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the FIA Vice President for Sport.

Aimed at rebuilding the popularity of the Middle East Championship, the proposals were approved by the World Rally Commission last week and are now expected to be ratified by the World Motor Sport Council on 5 December.

2012 FIA Middle East Rally Championship standings after five of six rounds:

Pos Drivers Pts
1 Nasser Al Attiyah (QAT) 68
2 Abdul Aziz Al Kuwari (QAT) 52
3 Roger Feghali (LBN) 43
4 Misfer Al Marri (QAT) 39
5 Nicholai Georgiou (LBN) 33
6 Khalid Al Suwaidi (QAT) 25
7 Sh Abdulla Al Qassimi (ARE) 24
8 Abdo Feghali (LBN) 18
= Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) 18