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ARAB STARS FIGHT FOR DUBAI RALLY GLORY

28 November, 2013

Sulayem expects fierce tussle to round of Middle East Championship as UAE’s longest running sports event opens 35th chapter

From left: Burcu  Centinkaya, Rashid Al Ketbi, Nasser Al Attiyah, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Meshari Al Thefiri at the Dubai Rally official press conference

From left: Burcu  Centinkaya, Rashid Al Ketbi, Nasser Al Attiyah, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Meshari Al Thefiri at the Dubai Rally official press conference

Dubai, UAE, 28 November, 2013: Only three drivers this century have won the Dubai International Rally, and two of them will be in the thick of the action again when the 35th edition of the UAE’s longest running sports event unfolds this weekend.

Top seeded Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah leads the cars away from the ceremonial start at Dubai World Trade Centre at 6.15pm tonight followed immediately by the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, before the competitive rally action follows in the desert over the next two days.

Al Attiyah has won the event in eight of the last ten years and six times in succession, while Al Qassimi, who heads a five-car challenge by Abu Dhabi Racing, scored back-to-back successes in 2005 and 2006.

While both are determined to round off the 2013 FIA Middle East Rally Championship with a victory, the only other Dubai International Rally winner in the last 12 years says it would be a mistake to think that the final round of the regional series is merely a fight between two drivers.

“Nasser and Khalid both know that as well,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers, who scored the last three of his 15 Dubai Rally wins between 2000-2002.

“We’ve produced a route which will provide a very good all-round test, and there will not be much to choose between five or six of the top drivers. One mistake, or a piece of bad luck, could make all the difference, and we’re looking forward to a very interesting two days.”

The 35th Dubai International Rally is endorsed by the office of H.H.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.

For a fourth year, the event is based at Dubai Men’s College, in the Higher Colleges of Technology campus at Academic City, Dubai, which hosts the Rally HQ and service park, as well as today’s official press conference and scrutineering.

Partnered by Giovanni Bernacchini in a Ford Fiesta RRC, Al Attiyah expects a major challenge from Al Qassimi in an Abu Dhabi Citroën DS3 alongside Scott Martin.

But the next four drivers to start the event are also aiming for the top. Among the potential first-time winners are Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi, who has a WRC2 victory to his name from this year’s World Rally Championship and wants to end the season with a Middle East win.

So does the UAE’s Rashid Al Ketbi, who has also enjoyed a WRC2 campaign this year and is eager for a first triumph in his home event at the wheel of his Skydive Dubai Ford Fiesta RRC.

Three years ago, Qatar’s Misfer Al Marri clinched the Middle East Championship with third place in Dubai, after a late mechanical problem almost brought disaster.

He must hope to avoid any major problems to have a chance of victory this time, and the same applies to last year’s runner-up, Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi, who would love to become the first UAE winner of event since his brother, Sheikh Khalid, triumphed seven years ago.

Within touching distance of the Middle East Group N title, Kuwait’s Mishari Al Thefiri needs a trouble-free run to prevent Qatar’s Abdulla Al Kuwari or the UAE’s Bader Al Jabri from having any chance of overhauling him.

Turkish lady driver Burcu Çetinkaya returns for her third appearance in the event after finishing fifth two years ago and eighth last year.

Friday morning’s first leg takes the competitors through Al Dhaid to the first loop of three special stages at Zubeidah, Al Falaj near Khadra village, and Showka, prior to a service regrouping. The same stages are repeated in the afternoon.

Saturday’s second leg features two loops of three stages at Al Dhaid (Police College), Khadra and Mileiha are all in the Al Dhaid/Mileiha area and are easily located from the Sharjah-Kalba Road or the Al Dhaid Road. The survivors reach the finish at Dubai World Trade Centre at 4.30pm.

From left: Burcu  Centinkaya, Rashid Al Ketbi, Nasser Al Attiyah, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Meshari Al Thefiri at the Dubai Rally official press conference