MERC: Ben Sulayem-Morgan duo aims for grand finale in Lebanon

Mohammed Ben Sulayem and Ronan Morgan team up for the last time in Lebanon later this month, aiming for one more victory together in the Ford Focus World Rally Car (WRC) to conclude the most successful partnership in international ...

Mohammed Ben Sulayem and Ronan Morgan team up for the last time in Lebanon later this month, aiming for one more victory together in the Ford Focus World Rally Car (WRC) to conclude the most successful partnership in international rallying.

Linking up again in the Rally of Lebanon with the Irish co-driver who has guided him to ten of his 12 Middle East titles, Ben Sulayem has now accepted that his right-hand-man for the last 14 years has turned a new corner in his career.

Ronan has made up his mind, and I respect that, so this will be our last rally together, said the Ford Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) Team star. We had a fantastic run of successes together, and Ronan has contributed tremendous efforts to my career, both as a co-driver and a friend.

I cant thank him enough for his support, loyalty, and professionalism over the years, but it would be a great finish to our partnership if we could win in Lebanon one more time, he added.

After a 26-year co-driving career, Morgan is pursuing other opportunities in the field of motor sports and event management. He announced his retirement as a rally competitor after helping Ben Sulayem take his Ford Focus WRC to the first of four wins this season in Abu Dhabi in January. Agreeing to partner Ben Sulayem one last time in the Rally of Lebanon, fifth round of this years FIA Middle East Championship (June 29-July 1), Morgan helped to select Jordans Khaled Zakaria as his likely successor.

Zakaria stepped in to the co-drivers seat for the rounds in Qatar, Bahrain, and his native Jordan, all of which produced wins for Ben Sulayem. He now happily stands down to let Morgan make his final appearance, and the Irishman hopes to sign off by steering Ford one step closer to a fifth Middle East Championship double triumph.

"It will be a very emotional rally for Mohammed and myself, because we achieved so much together," said Morgan, "and it would be nice to round it all off with another win in one of the premier rallies in the championship. Our partnership with Ford has been one of the highlights, and I love to finish by helping to take them to the drivers and manufacturers titles once more.

Morgan guided Ben Sulayem to 41 of his 53 victories in Middle East Rally Championship events, collecting ten regional co-drivers titles along the way. Together, they made Ford the dominant force in Middle East rallying, with four successive manufacturers championships. Their record includes also two World Championship Group N victories in Spain and Argentina.

In addition, the duo established the UAE Desert Challenge as one of the top events in the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, with Ben Sulayem as chief organiser, and Morgan as event director.

Dubliner Morgan began his career as a navigator in local Irish events, and has partnered more than 30 drivers, including British stars Russel Brooks, Tony Pond, Malcolm Wilson and Mark Lovell, and Irishman Billy Coleman, as well as QatarÂ's Saeed Al Hajri.

-duby miller

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Series Other rally
Drivers Mark Lovell , Malcolm Wilson , Ronan Morgan , Khaled Zakaria