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Press Release


1 December, 2011

Rally and snowboard champions combine to launch adventure on Middle East Championship trail 

H.H. Sheikh Mansour Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoumalong with Mohammed Ben Sulayem flagging away the defending champion Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah from the ceremonial startof the Dubai International Rally 2011, final round of the 2011 FIA Middle East Rally Championship.


Dubai, UAE, 1st December 2011:  The Dubai International Rally, like most motor sport events, is traditionally dominated by men, but two young Turkish ladies plan to steal at least some of the limelight during the 33rd edition of the event running over UAE National Day weekend.

Burcu Çetinkaya and her co-driver, Çiçek Güney, have arrived in the Emirates for the first time at the start of what they hope will be an exciting adventure leading to success in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, and on the world stage.

 The pair share a love of adrenalin, and it shows. Çetinkay is the five-times Turkish ladies rally champion who enjoys outpacing male drivers, and has made a pretty good job of doing that since taking up the sport five-and-a-half years ago.

No slouch herself, Güney is the nine-times Turkish snowboard champion and a member of her country’s National Snowboard Team, who has twice competed in the Universiade, the Olympics for university athletes.

Put them together and you have a formidable team who, following tonight’s (Thursday) ceremonial start, will have no fears as they tackle the serious side of the Dubai International Rally when action begins tomorrow (Friday) morning on the first of 12 special stages spread over two days.

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah is the overwhelming favourite to win the event for the seventh time and secure his seventh driver’s crown in the FIA Middle East Championship.

Dubai Rally 2

Should he go out of the rally or finish lower than seventh, the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi or Rashed Al Ketbi could snatch the title with victory in Dubai. Among those also aiming for a podium place are the UAE’s Sheikh Suhail Al Maktoum, winner of the event in 1990, veteran UAE-based Lebanese driver Michel Saleh who has never missed a Dubai Rally, and Oman’s Hamed Al Wahaibi, Group N runner up in the 1999 World Rally Championship.

Çetinkaya and Güney, however, are determined not to be overshadowed by the men. “I grew up with cars,” says Çetinkaya. “I love nature and I love teamwork. So seeing that rallying had it all, after visiting my first rally when I was 12, I made up my mind to be a rally driver.

“But to start was not so easy, so finally I sold my road car and started rallying with the money I got from my that. And luckily now I have sponsors - Sportoto, Turkish Ministry of Youth and Sports, Turkey Marketing Fund, Sonax, Ansell, Auto Mika; Goldenbay Tourism, Mars Athletic Club, Red Bull, Asus - so finally we can continue to rally and set higher goals.”

Her results suggest she can go a long way. They include 12th overall and best Turkish driver in the 2010 WRC Rally of Turkey 2010 and seventh overall in last year’s IRC Scotland Rally when she became the first lady driver to score points in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

She was tempted to enter the Dubai International Rally “because I really love the east. I want to follow the Middle East Championship in 2012 and this is the start. I don’t know much about Dubai,

but I can see it is a very beautiful and clean place. It feels like I am in space. I’m very excited, we want to push really hard.”

Co-driver Güney says: “I was always, and still am, fond of adrenalin. I knew Burcu from snowboarding and we decided to race together in rallying. At first, I was thinking of becoming a driver at the end of the first year but Burcu persuaded me to continue with her. In the last five years we have competed in more than 60 rallies.

Dubai Rally 3

“Burcu is very ambitious and very competitive. But she sacrifices a lot to achieve her goals. Physically, of course, women do have a disadvantage against men. But this is smaller compared to other sports such as running, cycling and snowboarding.

“We’re very happy to be in Dubai. Its architecture and design are very famous all around the world.

I’ve also heard there is a lot of good shopping, but I don’t know if we will have any time for that.”

For those keen to follow the action, Friday’s Leg 1 special stages are in the Malaiha and Shawka area and are easily located from the Sharjah-Kalba Road.  The 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.


2011FIA Middle East Rally Championship standings after five rounds

FIA Middle East Championship final standings  
1. Nasser Al Attiyah (QAT) 100 pts
2. Rashid Al Ketbi (UAE) 79 pts
3. Shk Abdulla Al Qassimi (UAE) 78 pts
4. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT) 54 pts
5. Essam Al Nejadi (KWT) 27pts
6. Michel Saleh (LBN) 23pts
7. Meshal Al Nejadi (KWT) 22pts
8. Ammar Hijazi (JOR) 20pts
9. Mazen Tantash (JOR) 20pts
10. Nancy Al Majali (JOR) 14pts
11. Fahad Ashknani (KWT) 08pts
12. Mshari Al Thefiri (KWT) 02pts

* Table shows points scored for previous rounds in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Cyprus and Lebanon.