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SHEIKH MAJID TO FLAG AWAY POWERFUL DUBAI INTERNATIONAL RALLY AT CEREMONIAL START

28 November, 2012

Chasing first win in home event, UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah predicts thrilling climax to FIA Middle East title race

Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassim – may have his best chance to date of claiming the Dubai Rally title. Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassim – may have his best chance to date of claiming the Dubai Rally title.
Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassim – may have his best chance to date of claiming the Dubai Rally title.

 

Dubai, UAE, 28th November 2012:  The Dubai International Rally has been tipped to provide an enthralling finale to the 2012 FIA Middle East Championship when it runs for the 34th time over UAE National Day weekend under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

Sheikh Majid will raise a UAE flag to wave off the cars from the ceremonial start  on Emaar Boulevard, in Old Town Dubai, at 7.30pm  tomorrow (Thursday) night.

The following morning the cars will set off for two frenetic days of desert action over 12 special stages, the first of which, a 19.05km competitive section, is appropriately named Spirit of the Union to mark the National Day festivities.

Defending both his Dubai International Rally and Middle East Championship titles, Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah is the top seed and strong favourite in a Ford Fiesta RRC alongside Italian co-driver, Giovanni Bernacchini. He needs only a top five finish to retain his Middle East crown.

But the presence of six other turbo-charged Regional Rally Cars, driven by three other Qataris and a trio of Emirati drivers equally determined to end the season with a victory, suggests Al Attiyah is in for a huge fight, and that the rally could be one of the most closely fought in its illustrious history.

“It’s going to be very close, and we might have seven cars separated by less than a minute at the end,” said the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi, who lies seventh in the Middle East Championship but feels he may have one of his best ever chances of claiming the Dubai Rally title.

Like his brother Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, the 2005 and 2006 rally winner, Sheikh Abdullah is also at the wheel of a new Ford Fiesta RRC, and he hopes British co-driver Steve Lancaster can help guide him to success in an event he has been trying to win in three decades.

“There is no real favourite,” he said. “We all have a chance. The stages are more well defined this year and we will all be driving on the limit.

“Nasser has been driving his Regional Rally Car for a couple of months and Khalid has a lot of WRC experience so their brains work faster and they have better reactions than the rest of us. But if we can take some of the stages off them,  it could be very close at the end.”

The UAE’s Rashid Al Ketbi and Qatar’s Abulaziz Al Kuwari, Misfer Al Marri and Khalid Al Suwaidi  also enter powerful Regional Rally Cars, and  the quality at the top of the field makes it the most competitive event in this year ‘s Middle East series.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the rally organisers, the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, said: “This is the biggest line-up of Regional Rally Cars yet for any rally, and that’s a big compliment to the event.

“The Dubai International Rally was the first event staged in the Emirate to attract international attention and has a great history, and we’re indebted to the Dubai Government for its consistent support and encouragement over the years.”

The rally is staged this year with the full support of the Dubai Ruler’s Court, and is backed by Emarat, Dubai Police, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs - Dubai, the Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services, and Dubai Civil Defence.

The powerful assembly of rally machinery going into action in Dubai will go through scrutineering at the ATCUAE Technical Centre in Al Qusais, Dubai on Thursday morning before grouping at the Rally HQ, at Dubai Men’s College, in the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) campus, Academic City, prior to the ceremonial start.

The rally then roars to life on Friday morning with six special stages on the 1st Leg 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.