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DUBAI RALLY ADDS TO UAE’S SPORTING HISTORY OVER 40TH NATIONAL DAY WEEKEND

30 November, 2011

Emirati drivers hold hopes of victory to mark nation’s anniversary while

Al Attiyah closes in on another Middle East title

 

Dubai, UAE, 30th November 2011:  The Dubai International Rally will add another chapter to the UAE’s sporting history as the nation celebrates its 40th Anniversary, with the drivers title race in the FIA Middle East Championship once again being decided over National Day weekend.

Taking place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Arts and Culture Authority, the final round of the 2011 FIA regional series has its ceremonial start at 7.30pm tomorrow (Thursday) on Emaar Boulevard, Old Town Dubai.

At 9am on Friday, as Emiratis and other residents across the country unite to mark the 40th UAE National Day, the real action begins in the 33rd edition of the Dubai Rally, the first annual sporting event staged in the Emirates which captured international attention.

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah, partnered by Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini in a Ford Fiesta S2000, will lead the starters away from the Rally HQ at Dubai Men’s College, in the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) campus in Academic City en route to the first of the event’s 12 special stages.

Appropriately named the “Spirit of the Union Stage”, this 19-km competitive section is the most technical in the rally and the driver who sets the fastest time will receive a special award. The “Spirit of the Union Stage” is in a loop of three stages which will each be repeated in the afternoon in a route totalling 1,027-kms in length. The survivors will reach the finish back on Emaar Boulevard, Old Town Dubai, at 4.30pm on Saturday.

Dubai Rally 2

Defending champion Al Attiyah is attempting to win the Dubai Rally title for the seventh time, and seven could well be his lucky number over UAE National Day weekend. Should he win, he will become FIA Middle East champion for the seventh time.

In fact, his 21-point championship leads means he can afford to finish seventh and still clinch the regional title, although Al Attiyah wants to produce a champion’s performance and add to his earlier championship wins this year in Qatar, Kuwait, Cyprus and Lebanon.

It will not be easy as the two UAE drivers following him away from the start, Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi and Rashed Al Ketbi, would love to score a home win to mark the UAE’s 40th anniversary.

Al Qassimi drives a Ford Fiesta S2000 in partnership with Britain’s Steve Lancaster while Al Ketbi is joined by Khalid Al Kendi in a Skoda Fabia S2000, and should Al Attiyah fail to finish, victory for either of the Emiratis would install them as Middle East champion.

The Dubai International Rally is organised by the Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE, with the full support of the Dubai Ruler’s Court. It is backed by Emarat, Dubai Police, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs - Dubai, and the Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services.

ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem joined Al Attiyah, Al Qassimi and Al Ketbi at an official press conference today at the Rally HQ. Also present were the UAE’s Sheikh Suhail Al Maktoum, winner in 1990, veteran UAE-based Lebanese driver Michel Saleh who is maintaining his remarkable record of having competed in every Dubai Rally since it was launched, and Oman’s Hamed Al Wahaibi, Group N runner up in the 1999 World Rally Championship.

“This rally is a special event for many and it has extra significance this time because it has traditionally been staged on UAE National Day weekend and goes back longer than any other international sports event staged in the Emirates during the last 40 years,” said Sulayem.

Dubai Rally 3

“The UAE has achieved so much in such a relatively short period of time in many areas, including the sporting arena. This is a good time to put on record our thanks to the President and Vice President of the UAE, and to our Rulers, for the support and encouragement that they have given to rallying, and to sport in general, over the years.”

Lying fourth in the championship standings, Mufeed Mubarak, accompanied by Saad Almelaifi in a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, leads a three-car Kuwaiti challenge in Dubai. Adding a touch of glamour to the starting line-up is the young all-ladies crew of Burcu Çetinkaya and Çiçek Güney from Turkey. Oman is represented by Hamed Al Wahaibi, the 1999 World Rally Championship Group N runner-up, who is joined by Allan Harryman in yet another Mitsubishi.

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.

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.