UAE driver hopes for first ever victory in home event after more than 20 years of trying

Dubai, UAE, 28th November, 2006: The UAE's Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi goes into the Dubai International Rally at the weekend aiming for his first ever victory in the event to boost his 2007 Middle East Championship challenge.

The absence of Middle East champion Nasser Al Attiyah has raised Sheikh Abdullah's hopes that this could be his year to land the Dubai Rally title which he has been trying to capture for more than 20 years.

For much of that time he has had to concede second best to Mohammed Ben Sulayem, 15-times winner of his home event and now the rally organiser as President of the Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE.

With Qatari Al Attiyah taking a break from rallying to aim for a shooting gold medal at the Doha Asian Games, Sheikh Abdullah has emerged as one of the most serious challengers to the defending champion in Dubai, his brother, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi.

"I've finished second in the rally three or four times, but never won it because Mohammed dominated the event for years," said Sheikh Abdullah. "This time I'm going out to enjoy myself and who knows, I could win. The championship has gone, I've had a bad year because of problems with my car for most of the season so let's hope everything works this time."

Partnered by British co-driver Steve Lancaster, Sheikh Abdullah will be making a final appearance behind the wheel of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution which blew its engine in Oman after giving him fourth place in Qatar.

A brand new Subaru Imprezza will arrive from the UK in time for him to give it a debut in the opening round of next year's Middle East Championship, the UAE International Rally, in Al Ain in January.

Sheikh Abdullah tried out his brother's Subaru in the same event earlier this year as well as in Jordan and Lebanon, finishing fourth on each occasion, and enters the final round of this year's regional series also lying fourth overall.

"The two cars are completely different," he said. "The Evo has more torque but the Subaru is better on rough ground, because it can take more of a hammering."

The 2006 Dubai International Rally takes place 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, Dubai Police, the Unified Ambulance Centre, Dubai Ports World and the Dubai Immigration authorities. It is sponsored by Nakheel, Dubai's premier property developer, Emarat, Hertz UAE, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Shamil, Mashreqbank, Damas and the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel, the official headquarters for the event.

The event starts from the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel at 9.30am on Thursday. Leg one takes the cars through two loops of three special stages and a final burst of two more stages, split by to service halts, in the Hatta area, before the night halt back in Dubai.

The second leg starts from the Al Bustan Rotana at 8am on Friday and features a double loop of three special stages in the Jebel Ali area separated by a service regrouping. The finish is at the Al Bustan Rotana at 3pm.

-credit: Dubai International Rally