MERC: Dubai - Al Qassimi spotlight

KHALID SHUTS OUT WRC TO FOCUS ON DUBAI RALLY BID Al Qassimi aims for second successive Dubai victory to break Al Attiyah's winning sequence Dubai, UAE, 21st November, 2006: The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi will shut the...

KHALID SHUTS OUT WRC TO FOCUS ON DUBAI RALLY BID
Al Qassimi aims for second successive Dubai victory to break Al Attiyah's winning sequence

Dubai, UAE, 21st November, 2006: The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi will shut the World Rally Championship from his mind next week to focus on an all-out bid to score a second successive victory in the Dubai International Rally.

The 2004 Middle East champion is eager to test himself on the WRC circuit and has been holding talks which could result in his wish being granted in the near future.

But for the time being at least, Al Qassimi is concentrating on the Dubai Rally which offers him an opportunity to round of a disappointing season with a victory, and use that to launch a major bid to win back the Middle East crown next year.

"For next year, I have the same car, the same team, and the same sponsor, and I'm keeping my feet on the ground," he said. "People are throwing rumours around because I've been exploring sponsorship opportunities to take me to the next level, the Production Cup in the World Rally Championship.

"But nothing is confirmed at the moment. When there is, I'll make sure everybody knows about it. For the time being my focus is on the Dubai International Rally, and on keeping my existing sponsors happy."

Sheikh Khalid, who will be partnered by regular British co-driver Nicky Beech in a Subaru Imprezza, won the Dubai Rally 12 months ago by almost 15 minutes after the driver who succeeded him last year as Middle East champion, Qatar's Nasser Al Attiyah, went out on the first leg.

Al Qassimi's attempt to snatch back the Middle East title this year were ruined by a series of mechanical problems in Qatar, Oman and Jordan, with the trouble eventually being traced to fuel components which caused the car to stop when the engine heated up. Lying joint fifth in the series before the final round in Dubai, he will now attempt to frustrate Al Attiyah's bid to maintain his 100% winning record in this year's championship.

The 2006 Dubai International Rally takes place from 29th November to 1st December under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation, Chairman of Emirates Group and Chairman of Dubai Aerospace Enterprise.

The event enjoys the full backing of the Government of Dubai, and Dubai Police, and is sponsored by Nakheel, Dubai's premier property developer, Emarat, Hertz UAE, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Tasjeel, Mashreqbank, Damas and the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel, the official headquarters for the event.

After scrutineering next Wednesday (29th November), the last of seven rounds in this year's Middle East Championship gets underway from the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel at 9.30am the following day at the start of a 640-km route containing 14 special stages.

Leg One takes the cars through eight special stages in the Hatta area before the night halt back in Dubai. The second leg starts from the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel at 8am on Friday 1st December and features a double loop of three special stages in the Jebel Ali area separated by a service regrouping.

-credit: Total Communications

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