SALEH AIMS HIGH IN SYRIA AFTER TOUGH BATTLE TO MAKE STARTING LINE-UP Rally veteran hopes new power boost can strengthen his Middle East challenge Dubai, UAE, 6th May, 2007: After a major logistical battle just to ensure that he will start...
SALEH AIMS HIGH IN SYRIA AFTER TOUGH BATTLE TO MAKE STARTING LINE-UP
Rally veteran hopes new power boost can strengthen his Middle East challenge
Dubai, UAE, 6th May, 2007: After a major logistical battle just to ensure that he will start this weekend's Syrian International Rally, Michel Saleh is targeting a podium finish to stay in the hunt for FIA Middle East Championship honours.
Since capturing third place in Jordan last month the veteran UAE-based Lebanese driver has twice been caught up in the problems engulfing his native country, and circumstances have seen his rally cars and spare parts scattered far apart.
A tarmac event he contested in Lebanon in preparation for Syria was halted by the internal fighting. Then only days after returning to Dubai, Saleh had to make a quick return journey to Lebanon when his sick mother was admitted to hospital.
After overseeing her recovery, Saleh was able to set off by road for Syria on Monday in tandem with his City of Arabia Subaru Impreza rally car.
As tightened security brought a frustrating delay at the border, a new engine and vital spare parts were on their way by air from the UK to Syria, where Saleh's practice car had just arrived following another hold-up on the border crossing from Jordan.
"It was difficult to get everything here in time, but we've made it," said a relieved Saleh after arriving at the Rally HQ at Saydnaya. "My mechanics are working on the car and the new engine and parts will give me more power and better all round performance.
Saleh now wants to deliver a top performance to thank his City of Arabia sponsors, Ilyas and Mostafa Galadari. "They've been fantastic to me, especially recently by making sure we had the best engine and parts for the car," he said. "I'm definitely aiming for a top three finish in Syria, and that's my target in the championship as well."
Saleh currently lies fifth in the championship, but as only seven of eight events count in the final analysis the gap to leader Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi of the UAE and second-placed Jordanian Amjad Farrah will shrink when both discard one rally and lose points.
After a ceremonial start tomorrow (Thursday) evening, action in the Syrian International Rally begins on Friday morning and after 13 special stages the event finishes at the Sheraton Ma'aret Saydnaya at 4.35pm on Saturday.