MERC: Ben Sulayem takes Focus back on victory trail in Jordan

Arab World's Top Driver Aims To Take Ford Closer To Another Middle East Title Double In New-Look Jordan International Rally Mohammed Ben Sulayem takes his Ford Focus World Rally Car back into action in the new-look Jordan International, aiming...

Arab World's Top Driver Aims To Take Ford Closer To Another Middle East Title Double In New-Look Jordan International Rally

Mohammed Ben Sulayem takes his Ford Focus World Rally Car back into action in the new-look Jordan International, aiming to extend a brilliant winning record in the event which gave him his first international victory.

After last year's safety problems almost cost the event its place in the FIA Middle East Championship, a major administrative shake-up has brought dramatic changes to the rally format, but Ben Sulayem is determined to ensure that one thing will not change.

Since his first Jordan triumph back in 1984, he has largely dominated the event, winning it ten times overall, scoring five successive victories since 1996, and he now sees the rally, on May 17-19, as the next step towards another Middle East title double for Ford.

A hat-trick of wins in the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain already this year in his Ford Focus WRC have put the Arab world's No.1 firmly on course for a 13th Middle East drivers' title, and given Ford control of the manufacturers' championship once again.

"It's been a perfect season so far, and I'm thoroughly looking forward to going back to Jordan, where I've made so many friends, and the rally has been so good to me," said Ben Sulayem.

"The new organisation, established by HRH Prince Faisal Bin Al-Hussein, has been working hard to ensure that the event meets the FIA's safety standards. Jordan is one of the stronghold's of Middle East rallying, while this event has been one of the best in the championship over the years, and I hope it can now go from strength to strength."

Chasing his 53rd rally victory in the Middle East Championship, Ben Sulayem will again be partnered by Jordanian co-driver Khaled Zakaria, who has filled the vacancy left by Ronan Morgan, the UAE star's co-driver for almost 14 years.

While Morgan will assist Ben Sulayem one more time in the Rally of Lebanon, Zakaria has the chance to become permanent successor to the Irishman who is now developing a career in motor sport administration.

The 2001 Jordan International Rally gets under way at 5pm on Thursday May 17 with a 2km super special spectator stage at the Amman International Fair. The main action begins at 7am the following morning, with Ben Sulayem's Ford Focus WRC leading the rally away from the Sheraton Hotel in Amman, the event's official headquarters, on a new 1,040-km desert route.

Both the Friday (May 18) and Saturday (May 19) legs feature five special stages each to be run twice, with other new features including timing equipment accurate up to a tenth of a second.

visit the mohhamed bin-sulayem officall web-site at: http://www.mohhamedbensulayem.com

-duby miller

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Ronan Morgan , Khaled Zakaria