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DUBAI RALLY POINTS WAY TO BRIGHT NEW FUTURE FOR MIDDLE EAST CHAMPIONSHIP

29 November, 2012

UAE stars aim to chase down Qatar’s Al Attiyah as hebids to retain regional title

Mohammed Ben Sulayem at the press conference DIR Press Conference

Press Conference - Dubai International Rally 2012

Dubai, UAE, 29th November 2012: The Dubai International Rally adds another chapter to its colourful history as the UAE’s most durable sporting event over National Day weekend with its future, and that of the FIA Middle EastRally Championship, set to receive a significant boost.

At a meeting in Istanbul next Wednesday, the World Motorsport Council is expected to give the final  green light to plans devised in the UAE aimed at revitalisng the regional series by establishing four additional title races to attract young driving talent and boost entries overall.

The proposals, already approved by the World Rally Commission, have been driven by Dr Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, organisers of the Dubai International Rally.

They will see next year’s Middle East series take in three new parallel championships – 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.

Sulayem, the FIA Vice President for Sport, joined a line-up of leading drivers at an official press conference today to launch the 34th edition of the Dubai International Rally, and look ahead to what he hopes will be a bright new future for the event, and the Middle East Championship.

“We have some great drivers in the Middle East, we have international rallies with great tradition, and we have a rally championship which was the starting point for international motor sport in the region,” said Sulayem.

“In recent years, the Middle East Rally Championship has gone into decline while other branches of motor sport have prospered, and we need a new generation of drivers to ensure the series, and rallying as a whole, has a healthy future.”

Taking place under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, the Dubai International Rally has provided many a dramatic finish to the Middle East Championship, and could provide another interesting grand finale this weekend.

The rally is staged 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 press conference was staged at the Rally HQ, which for a third year is based at Dubai Men’s College, in the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) campus, Academic City.

While he needs only a top five finish to retain his Middle East title, Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah cannot afford to relax at the wheel of one of eightturbo-charged Regional Rally Cars that will

go into action tomorrow following tonight’s (Thursday) ceremonial start on Emaar Boulevard, in Old Town Dubai.

He will be first to begin the Spirit of the Union special stage, the first of six being run tomorrow (Friday) as the rally begins in earnest, followed immediately by six other RRCs , driven by fellow Qataris Abulaziz Al Kuwari, Misfer Al Marri and Khalid Al Suwaidi, and the UAE trio of Sheikh Khalid and Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi, and Rashid Al Ketbi.

“Any one of the top seven must feel they have a chance of winning, and this looks like being a very competitive event which could be decided by very narrow margins,” said Sulayem.

Another Ford Fiesta RRC is driven by Jordan’s Alaa Rasheed, but if the men think they are going to have things all their own way, the all ladies Turkish crew of Burcu Çetinkaya and co-driver Çiçek Güney are determined to prove them wrong, as they did 12 months ago.

They entered the event as complete outsiders last year in their first ever Middle East event, and produced a brilliant performance, finishing fifth overall.

This year they have already finished runners-up in the Qatar National Championship, as well as fourth overall in Qatar International Rally, and return to Dubai looking to add to their impressive sporting CVs.

Çetinkay is the five-times Turkish ladies rally champion, while Güney is the nine-times Turkish snowboard champion, and they form a formidable combination in the cockpit of their Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.

Each of the six special stages on the 1stLeg  run in the Malaiha and Shawka area and are 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 reach the finish back on Emaar Boulevard, Old Town Dubai, at 4.30pm on Saturday.