MERC: Qatar Rally Team Syrian Rally preview

The Qatar National Bank supported Group N Qatar Rally Team make their way over to Damascus in Syria next week, as they contest the fourth round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, the Syria International Rally on September 11th. Leading...

The Qatar National Bank supported Group N Qatar Rally Team make their way over to Damascus in Syria next week, as they contest the fourth round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, the Syria International Rally on September 11th.

Leading the team in the championship standings is the ever impressive Hamad Al-Sowaidi. The rapid Qatari driver, the most experienced member of the five strong team, is looking to close the gap on Group N points rival Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi. Hamad brought his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI home in a fine fourth overall on the recent Jordan International Rally. Over nine minutes were lost changing a punctured tyre and damaged wheel, but Al-Sowaidi still managed to fight back to claim second in the Group N category. Hamad is looking forward to the challenges of Syria:

"I think it will be an excellent rally, but it is vital that we score as many points as we can. If Al-Qassimi hits trouble, then me must be in a position to capitalise and score heavily. I'm feeling very confident about this rally, and I'm sure that we can put some pressure on our rivals this time. We shall be trying very hard to close the gap on Abdullah."

Hamad was followed home in Jordan by one of the Qatar Rally Team's talented youngsters, Misfer Al-Marri. The 27 year old has had a mixed bag of results this year, with a best finish of 6th overall and 3rd Group N in Jordan. However, the father of three enjoys the desert challenges and will be keen to score another strong finish after a lucky escape in Lebanon when the Mitsubishi caught fire. Al-Marri will certainly be keen to give team mate Al-Sowaidi a run for his money in Syria. Misfer was second overall in the FIA Middle East Group N Championship last year, so will be keen to repeat that kind of form for the rest of the season:

"Yes, its a very important rally" commented Misfer. "We have not enjoyed great fortune on the rallies this year, but the result in Jordan was pleasing for us, and gives me confidence before arriving in Syria. The Syrian stages are a typical desert challenge, so we know exactly what to expect there. I hope that all the drivers in the Qatar Rally Team will feature strongly on this rally after some mixed luck this year."

The three other drivers in the Qatar Rally Team are also looking forward to their Syrian outing. Abdulla Al Kuwari was in very good form in Jordan. After an unfortunate accident on the Lebanese round of the championship, Al Kuwari bounced back to finish right on the tail of Misfer Al-Marri in Jordan, claiming fourth in Group N and seventh overall. In only his third year of competition, the former National Rally and RallyCross champion of Qatar will be keen to keep his good run of form going in Syria.

Abdulaziz Al Kuwari and Khalifa Al Attiyah will also be keen to put in a good performance on the Damascus based event that uses desert stages near to the main Syria-Iraq border road. Al Attiyah finished an excellent 13th overall on the Rally of Lebanon, but a cruel mechanical failure forced him to retire from the Jordanian event.

Al Kuwari has been even less fortunate of late. The youngster completed the first day of the Rally of Jordan, only to be over the maximum permitted lateness on the rally, and was forced to retire. After retiring in Lebanon, Abdulaziz will be desperate for a good result in Syria to make up for a disappointing start to the season for the former National Autotest champion.

The rally gets underway from the capital Damascus using desert stages near the main Syrian-Iraq road. With an overnight halt pencilled in at the city of Palmyra, the crews will spend another day on the desert before returning to Damascus on Friday afternoon for the finish.

FIA Middle East Rally Championship:
Group N positions after round 3 of 6:

1. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 20
2. Hamad Al-Sowaidi (QA) 12
3. Justin Dale (GB) 10
4. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA) and Elan (RL) 8
6. Craig Johnson (GB), Sheikh Khaled Al-Qassimi (UAE) and Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 6, etc

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Justin Dale , Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari