MERC: Syrian Int'l Rally pre-race notes

SYRIA WIN CAN LAUNCH KHALID TO MIDDLE EAST TITLE, SAYS SULAYEM EATC President highlights development of motor sport in Iran at MERC annual meeting Dubai, UAE, June 5, 2007: Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who dominated the Syrian International...

SYRIA WIN CAN LAUNCH KHALID TO MIDDLE EAST TITLE, SAYS SULAYEM
EATC President highlights development of motor sport in Iran at MERC annual meeting

Dubai, UAE, June 5, 2007: Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who dominated the Syrian International Rally at the height of his career, believes fellow-UAE driver Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi can win in Damascus at the weekend to place one hand on this year's regional crown.

Sulayem, President of the Emirates Automobile and Touring Club, will be in Syria to attend the annual meeting of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship organisers, and he is also hoping to see Sheikh Khalid grab his third victory of this year's regional series.

"His win in Jordan in the last round has given Khalid a good lead in the championship, and if he does the same in Syria he will be very difficult to catch," said 14-times Middle East champion Sulayem, who won the Syrian Rally title three years in a row from 2000.

Sheikh Khalid is expected to come under pressure in Syria from his two nearest championship challengers, Jordan's Amjad Farrah and Qatar's defending champion, Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah.

"It won't be easy for Khalid, and Nasser will be determined to win after the setbacks he has had this season," said Sulayem. "But Khalid has been the most consistent driver in the Middle East so far this year. He has a reliable car, a good team, and this could be his year."

With an expected starting line-up of 33 drivers from nine countries, the Syrian International Rally begins with a ceremonial start in Damascus on Thursday evening (June 7th).

Competitive action gets underway at Sabkha at 9.35am on Friday with the first of seven special stages on the first leg. Starting at 9.43am on Saturday, the second leg features six more stages leading to the finish in the grounds of the Sheraton Ma'aret Saydnaya at 4.35pm.

On the agenda at the following day's annual meeting of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship organisers is the ratification of next year's championship calendar, and Sulayem will take the opportunity to highlight the development of motor sport in Iran.

He was in Tehran earlier this month for official talks aimed at reinforcing links between the UAE and the Islamic Republic in motor sport and tourism, and wants the working relationship that is being established between the two countries to grow to bring regional benefits.

"We want to work with our Iranian neighbours to help them develop motor sport in Iran and build links between our two countries, and the region as a whole," he said.

-credit: www.totalcompr.com

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Series Other rally
Drivers Khalid Al-Qassimi , Amjad Farrah