ARAB STARS FACE CLASSIC BATTLE FOR DUBAI RALLY TITLE
Event reaches 30-year milestone with UAE drivers aiming for home victory to thwart Al Attiyah
Dubai, UAE, 27th November, 2008: The Middle East's top drivers will be locked in a classic battle for supremacy as the Dubai International Rally marks its 30th anniversary over the next two days.
While Qatar's Nasser Al Attiyah has clinched the 2008 FIA Middle East Rally Championship and is the firm favourite as he chases his second successive victory in Dubai, he faces a stern test in the final round of the regional series.
Returning to home territory from World Rally Championship action with Team Abu Dhabi, the UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, the 2004 Middle East champion and Dubai Rally winner in 2005 and 2006, will be going flat out for victory in his Subaru WRX-STI.
Among a cluster of other top Arab drivers also aiming for a big finish to the season will be multiple Lebanese champion Roger Feghali, UAE drivers Sheikh Suhail Al Maktoum, Rashid Al Ketbi and Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi, and Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al Rajhi.
While they try to steal the glory from Al Attiyah, the tussle for runner's up spot in the championship sees Qatari Misfer Al Marri protecting a fragile one-point lead over Lebanese driver Nick Georgiou, with Oman's Nizar Al Shanfari and Cypriot Nicos Thomas also chasing a podium place.
"This is an important rally in its own right and one every Middle East driver wants to win at some point in his career," said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers, at today's official press conference.
"It's the longest established international sporting event in the UAE and has played such an important part in the history of the FIA Middle East Championship. There's a lot at stake this weekend."
Taking place under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Majed bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the 2008 Dubai International Rally is supported by Dubai Police, the Naturalization & Residency Administration -- Dubai, the Directorate General of Civil Defence -- Dubai, the Roads & Transport Authority, Dubai Customs, Unified Ambulance, DP World, Oasis Water, Emarat, Hertz UAE and Explorer Publishing.
The event, which has enjoyed four decades of support from the Dubai Ruler's Court, has attracted 72 competitors from 16 countries, and the starting line-up was being finalised on the completion of scrutineering in Dubai later today.
Getting under way from the Al Mamzar corniche at 9.30am tomorrow (Friday), the 642-km event contains 270-kms of special stages. Friday's first leg brings four special stages in the Madam and Hatta areas, with five more stages following on Saturday in the Filli area leading to the 4pm finish on the corniche at Al Mamzar.
After earlier rounds in Qatar, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, Qatari Al Attiyah made sure of the Middle East title by winning the recent Troodos Rally in Cyprus for the sixth year in a row.
With Misfer Al Marri now aiming to make it a championship one-two for Qatar, the Emirate's challenge in Dubai also sees Jabber Al Marri and Mohammed Al Marri contesting the event in a pair of Mitsubishi Evos.
Jordan has entered a five-car team, with Amjad Farrah, Faris Bustami, Nader Al Jabaly and Faris Hijazi at driving Mitsubishi Evos and Ammar Hijazi in a Subaru Imprezza.
Kuwait's Meshari Al Thafiri tackles the event in another Mitsubishi Evo and the overseas contingent includes Russian Denis Grodetskiy and British driver Simon Nutter, both driving Subaru Imprezzas.