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Arab World's Top Driver Heads For Damascus Chasing Fifth Win Of The Season And Another Ford Middle East Title Double Bakhashab change of plan removes threat to BEN SULAYEM's ford focus wrc in SYRIA Mohammed Ben Sulayem heads for Syria next...

Arab World's Top Driver Heads For Damascus Chasing Fifth Win Of The Season And Another Ford Middle East Title Double

Bakhashab change of plan removes threat to BEN SULAYEM's ford focus wrc in SYRIA

Mohammed Ben Sulayem heads for Syria next week knowing that one major obstacle has already been removed from his path towards a fifth victory of the season in his Ford Focus World Rally Car, and another double Middle East title triumph.

While Ben Sulayem is relishing his return to action in the Syrian International Rally on September 6-7, Saudi Arabian star Abdullah Bakhashab has cancelled plans to enter the new event in the FIA Middle East Championship.

Bakhashab, concentrating on the FIA Teams Cup in the World Rally Championship, finished third in July's Rally of Lebanon and had pencilled in a second Middle East outing of the season in Syria.

The Saudi driver has now decided that he will enter no more Middle East events until next season, and his decision means that two familiar rivals from the UAE will be the biggest challengers to Ben Sulayem's Ford Focus WRC in Syria.

Sharjah's Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi lies second to Ben Sulayem in the race for this year's Middle East drivers' crown, although his main priority is the regional Group N title which he could clinch for the second year in a row in Syria.

UAE-based Lebanese driver Michel Saleh is also hoping to make a big impact in Damascus

to brighten up a largely disappointing season in which his highlight to date was sixth place in Lebanon.

Ben Sulayem, however, is a powerful favourite to record his 54th win in the regional series, a result which would give him the Middle East drivers' title for a remarkable 13th time.

Partnered again by Jordan's Khaled Zakaria in the Ford Focus WRC, he tops the entry list of 30 drivers preparing for the start of the two-day Syrian International Rally in Damascus on Thursday week (September 6).

With two more rounds remaining in Cyprus and Dubai, a top-three finish for Al Qassimi or another Mistubishi driver in Syria would delay the double celebrations for Ford, who are on course for a fifth manufacturers' championship.

But it is likely to be only a short delay at the most, leaving Ben Sulayem with the opportunity to wrap up the manufacturers' title on home territory in Dubai.

That would be a fitting way for the man who has won more FIA rallies, and more FIA championships, than any other driver, to mark the 100th anniversary of Ford's debut in motorsport. <pre>

FIA Middle East Championship positions after five rounds

1.  M.Ben Sulayem (UAE) 40pts
2.  A.Al Qassimi (UAE) 20pts
3.  H.Al Sowaidi (QT), A.Tsouloftas (CY) 10pts
5.  M.Al Hajri (QT) 6pts

Group N Championship:

1. A.Al Qassimi (UAE) 40pts 2. H.Al Sowaidi (QT) 18pts 3. M.Al Hajri (QT) 11pts 4. Skh J.Al Khalifa (BAH), - R.Cremen (AUS) 6pts

Manufacturers' Championship:

1. Ford 40pts; 2.. Mitsubishi 27pts

-rally-net

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Series Other rally
Drivers Michel Saleh , Khaled Zakaria