Bustami Hopes For a Silver Lining in Dubai

Jordanian leaves Group N behind after being foiled in bid for national title hat-trick

Faris Bustami leads a four-car Jordanian challenge in this week's Dubai International Rally, and he will be looking for a personal silver lining to the 2001 FIA Middle East Championship.

After winning the Jordanian national championship for the last two years, Bustami's bid to complete a title hat-trick this year was foiled by Marouf Abu Samra, while he was not able to muster a serious challenge for the Middle East Group N title.

He has now left the Group N production class behind him, having acquired a Group A Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 4 which makes its Middle East Championship debut when the Dubai International Rally gets under way on Wednesday morning.

The Al Zaher team driver Bustami drove the car competitively for the first time in the decisive recent round of the Jordanian national series, and had to settle for second place in the rally, and the championship, behind Abu Samra.

"It's a new car, and I need time to familiarise myself with it, but I'll be aiming for a top-five finish overall in Dubai," said Bustami.

He is one of 33 entries from 12 countries for the 2001 Dubai International Rally.

Jordan is also represented by Asem Aref in another Group A Mitsubishi Lancer, Ibrahim Al Mhawish in a Group N Lancer, and Nancy Al Majali in a Group N Ford Sierra.

Bitterly disappointed when forced to withdraw from the event before the start in Dubai last year because of a cracked cylinder head, Al Majali will be looking to beat Germany's Edith Weiss to the ladies' title this time.

UAE-based Cypriot Nicholas Mandrides is another driver hoping for better fortunes in Dubai. In the build-up to last year's event, he had to rebuild his Group A Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 after crashing out of the World Championship Cyprus Rally. It was an expensive exercise, and his bad luck continued in Dubai when his car's turbo blew 4km into the fourth special stage.

Mandrides heads into the event this time in a much more positive frame of mind after being the highest-placed Cypriot finisher in the island's 2001 World Championship event, which saw him take 15th place overall.

- duby miller