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Nasser's Path To Victory in Dubai Threatened by UAE Duo

22 November, 2011

Qatari star heads Dubai Rally starting line-up in Middle East title decider; challengers arriving from Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, Lebanon

Dubai, UAE, 22nd November 2011: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah faces a double home threat as he attempts to clinch the FIA Middle East Championship with victory in the Dubai International Rally over UAE National Day weekend.

The six-times Middle East champion tops the event entry list which was published today by the Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE in the countdown to the sixth and final round of the 2011 FIA regional series, taking place on December 1-3.

While Al Attiyah, partnered by Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini in a Ford Fiesta S2000, needs only a top seven finish to clinch another Middle East title, the 2011 Dakar Rally winner will be eager to round of a memorable season in style with another victory.

That could mean a fascinating tussle between the Qatari and the two UAE drivers who will follow him away from the start in Dubai, Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi and Rashed Al Ketbi.

Both would love to pull off a home win to mark the 40th anniversary of the UAE, with Al Qassimi also entering a  Ford Fiesta S2000 in partnership with Britain’s Steve Lancaster, and Al Ketbi joined by Khalid Al Kendi in a Skoda Fabia S2000.

The extra incentive for the two Emirati drivers is that, if they can pressure Al Attiyah into a mistake which puts him out of the rally, either of them could snatch the Middle East crown from his grasp. Adding to the UAE challenge is former winner Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al Maktoum who returns for a rare appearance these days at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza, while Team Abu Dhabi’s Majid Al Shamsi and Bader Al Jabri also go into action at the wheel of Group N Subarus.      

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. Also carrying the Kuwaiti flag will be Fahad Ashkanani and Mshari Al-Thefiri, each driving Mitsubishi Lancers and both looking to climb into the championship’s top ten.

One of the most familiar figures in the Dubai Rally over the years, veteran UAE-based Lebanese driver Michel Saleh, is this time partnered by Jordanian driver, Nancy Al-Majali, who is the current holder of tenth place in the FIA regional series but finishes it in the navigator’s seat of a Subaru Impreza.

Also carrying the Jordanian flag into the event are Mazen Tantash, who approaches the final round in joint eighth position accompanied by Zeid Abu Zeid in a Group N Subaru Impreza, and Ahmad Mihiar.

Adding a touch of glamour to the starting line-up will be the young all-ladies crew of

Burcu Çetinkaya and Çiçek Güney who travel to the UAE from Turkey to contest the event in another Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. German lady driver Edith Weiss also enters a Mitsubishi Lancer.

Oman is represented by one of the Sultanate’s best known drivers, Hamed Al Wahaibi, with the 1999 World Rally Championship Group N runner-up joined by Allan Harryman in yet another  Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X.

A two-car entry from Lebanon sees Robert Aaraj tackling the event in a Group N Subaru Impreza and Bassel Abu Hamdan at the wheel of a Renault Clio.

Also in the starting line-up are former Middle East Group N champion Ron Oakeley, and his close friend, two-times Formula Two regional champion Simon Nutter, who co-drives for son Robert, both in Subaru       Imprezas.

The 33rd Dubai International Rally is being held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Arts and Culture Authority.

Staged with the full support of the Dubai Ruler’s Court, the event is also backed by Emarat, Dubai Police, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs - Dubai, and the Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services.

Based at Dubai Men’s College, in the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) campus in Academic City, Dubai, the rally has its ceremonial start at 7.30pm on December 1 on Emaar Boulevard, Old Town Dubai. Special stage action begins at 9am the following day from HCT, and the event finishes at 4.30pm on Saturday December 3  back on Emaar Boulevard, Old Town Dubai.