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RIVALRY COULD PRODUCE CLASSIC MIDDLE EAST RALLY CLIMAX IN DUBAI

25 November, 2012

Top UAE trio eye home victory as Qatari challengers look todominate championship standings

Rashid Al Ketbi – aiming to give the UAE a home win.

Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi – championship target.

Misfer Al Marri – part of a powerful four-car Qatari challenge.

Dubai, UAE, 25 November, 2012:  Traditional rivalry between UAE and Qatari drivers has produced some of the best action in four decades of the FIA Middle East Championship and could create another classic finale to the regional series in the 34th Dubai International Rally.

Three of the host country’s top drivers each go into the event eager to secure victory on UAE National Day weekend while a powerful four-car Qatari challenge is committed to taking rally and championship success back to Doha.

An official entry list announced today by the rally organisers, the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, confirms the strength of the Qatari assault on the Dubai International Rally taking place from 29 November to 1 December under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

Nasser Al Attiyah, defending his Middle and Dubai Rally titles, is joined by fellow Qataris Abdul Aziz Al Kuwari - his nearest challenger and the only driver who could yet beat him to the regional crown – Misfer Al Marri and Khalid Al Suwaidi, currently lying fourth and sixth in the standings.

A solid performance by Al Marri in Dubai, where he clinched the 2010 Middle East title, could ensure a Qatari 1-2-3 in this year’s championship, although the UAE’s top three drivers could still have a say in that as they chase a home win in their trio of Ford Fiestas.

While they have not contested the Middle East series, Rashid Al Ketbi and Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi will be going flat out for victory in Dubai, as will Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi who, mathematically, could still finish third overall in the championship.

It all adds up to a potentially spectacular end to the season in Dubai, where the sixth and final round of the championship has its ceremonial start on Emaar Boulevard, in Old Town Dubai, at 7.30pm on Thursday, 29 November

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.

Competition between UAE and Qatari drivers has been a feature of the FIA Middle East Championship since its launch in 1984, with the early years of the series creating one of the greatest rivalries in regional motor sport.

ATCUAE President Dr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the 14-times former Middle East champion, fought out some of the most exhilarating contests in the championship’s history with Qatar’s Saeed Al Hajri, and he hopes the current crop of drivers produce another showpiece in Dubai.

“We welcome all our competitors from the Middle East and overseas, and of course we’re very pleased to see such a strong contingent from Qatar once again,” said Sulayem, the FIA Vice President for sport.

“All sports thrive on healthy rivalries and rallying is no exception. We’re looking forward to a very competitive event, and as the Dubai International Rally has shown many times in the past, nothing can be taken for granted.”

Carrying Lebanese hopes in Dubai will be Nassib Nassar partnered by Rony Maroun in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII and Alaa Rasheed and Joseph Matar in a Ford Fiesta.

Kuwait is represented by Mshar Althefiri and Mobarak Althefiri in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX and Jordan by Hani Al Bast and Ata Al-Hmoud in a Lancer Evo VIII. Regular visitor from the UK, Simon Nutter, is partnered by son Robert Nutter in a Subaru Impreza WRX.

The rally action begins in earnest on Friday morning 30 November, 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 will be the final Middle East Championship event before the FIA regional series takes in four additional title races next season to attract young driving talent and boost entries overall.

Driven by ATCUAE President Sulayem, the plan to create championships within the series for Group N production cars, young drivers, and 2WD vehicles, as well as a T3 category for 2WD and 4WD buggies, will 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