MERC: Bahrain: Rally preview

2002 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, Bahrain International Rally , round 2 of 7 The Bahrain Motor Federation announces the running of the 2002 Bahrain International Rally, the second round of this year's FIA Middle East rally...

2002 FIA Middle East Rally Championship,
Bahrain International Rally , round 2 of 7

The Bahrain Motor Federation announces the running of the 2002 Bahrain International Rally, the second round of this year's FIA Middle East rally championship,the two-day Bahrain Rally takes place over mixed surface special stages, south of Manama, and is expected to attract the leading rally drivers in the Middle East. It starts on Thursday, March 7th and finishes the following afternoon in Manama.

Indications from the opening round in Qatar suggest that the event will attract its biggest ever entry of international competitors. Among the early entrants are defending champion Mohammed bin Sulayem in a new Ford Focus World Rally Car with British co-driver John Spiller, Sharjah's Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi in a Ford Focus and the Qatari driver Hamed Al-Sowaidi in his new Subaru Impreza WRC. Former champion Abdullah Bakhashab is also a strong contender in his Toyota Corolla WRC.

A brand new three-car team of Toyota RAV4s are set to take the start of the Zayani Motors Mitsubishi Bahrain International Rally , The team has been developed in Saudi Arabia to further the motorsport career prospects of three youthful hopefuls, keen to follow in the World Championship footsteps of the former Middle East rally champion Abdullah Bakhashab.

Sharjah's Khaled Al-Qassimi will be bidding to follow in the footsteps of his better known cousin Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, when he tackles the Zayani Motors Mitsubishi Bahrain International Rally, Khaled is the current leader of the 2002 FIA Middle East rally championship's Group N category, after taking his maiden showroom section victory in last month's Qatar International Rally. Abdullah, his more illustrious relation, is the defending champion but has graduated to a more powerful Ford Focus WRC this season in a bid to wrest the overall title from the clutches of Mohammed bin Sulayem.

Khaled Al-Qassimi faces one of his stiffest Group N tests this season, with a strong line-up of the region's top showroom section drivers keen to redress the balance. Kuwait's Mohammed Al-Sarraf had been as high as second in the section and fourth overall in Qatar, before a cruel puncture dropped him to seventh place at the finish in the Marlboro Rally Team Kuwait Mitsubishi Lancer.

Also competing the grp-N class are - Bahraini driver Abdulrahman Ghuloom, Hassan Al-Sadadi, Qatari Mubarak Al-Hajri and Abdullah Al-Kuwari. Dubai-based British rally driver Ron Oakeley will be looking to extend his advantage in the FIA Super 1600 section of the 2002 FIA Middle East rally championship, when he tackles the Zayani Motors Mitsubishi Bahrain International Rally,

But Oakeley faces competition this weekend in the Formula Two or two-wheel drive category from East Yorkshireman Howard Paterson who has been a regular competitor in the Gulf region for a number of years in a variety of well-honed Volkswagen Golf GTIs and has recently been working in Jeddah, assessing the driving skills of a number of young hopefuls involved in the Toyota Team Saudi Arabia selection school. He will be co-driven by wife Ruth. also in the rally Cumbrian Simon Nutter was also involved in the Jeddah selection process and is entered this weekend with wife Fiona Udale in a powerful Vauxhall Astra GTE, supported by Toppers Nightclub in Penrith. A regular competitor in the region for nearly 10 years, Simon retired from last year's Bahrain Rally with mechanical problems, but is determined to beat rival Paterson.

Also competing in the Super 1600 section is the Cypriot defending champion Nearchos Nearchou, driving a Proton Wira and the Kuwaiti team of Mohammed Al-Awadhi and Mishari Zayed in a Suzuki Swift GTi.

- duby miller

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