MERC: Jordan preview

Saleh says odds are mounting in favour of Sheikh Khalid as he tries to win back regional crown from Al Attiyah Dubai, UAE, 8th May, 2007: The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi could make a decisive move in Jordan this weekend in his bid to ...

Saleh says odds are mounting in favour of Sheikh Khalid as he tries to win back regional crown from Al Attiyah

Dubai, UAE, 8th May, 2007: The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi could make a decisive move in Jordan this weekend in his bid to snatch back the FIA Middle East Rally Championship title from Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah.

Veteran UAE-based Lebanese driver Michel Saleh believes the odds are mounting in Sheikh Khalid's favour as he looks to increase his championship lead over Al Attiyah in the Jordan Rally, which gets under way in Amman on Thursday.

While Sheikh Khalid has had a relaxed build-up to an event marking the half-way point in the FIA regional series, Al Attiyah had a tortuous journey to Jordan from Argentina following his latest in a series of setbacks this year.

The reigning Middle East champion retired from the Argentine Rally at the weekend with mechanical problems, and Saleh, who is aiming his City of Arabia Subaru Impreza at a top three finish in Jordan, feels the pressure is on the dashing Qatari.

"Nasser has had a lot of bad luck this year and Khalid has a good chance to win back the Middle East title," said Saleh. "At the moment the championship is really wide open, but the Jordan Rally could give a pointer as to who will come out on top this season."

"There is not much between Khalid and Nasser this year. Khalid has changed his car's computer so his team can programme it themselves. That makes a big difference to the performance, and it's shown in the times he's been setting."

Partnered by Lebanese co-driver Ziad Chehab in his City of Arabia Subaru, Saleh is aiming to climb from his current fifth spot in the championship by capitalising on his many years of rallying experience in Jordan.

"I know the conditions very well and I'm doing the local Jordan championship events this year so I hope to do well this weekend. I'm definitely aiming for the top three," he said.

The events gets under way on Thursday with a ceremonial launch beside the King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque in Amman, before two days of action on the shores of the Dead Sea.

-credit: Total Communications

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Series Other rally
Drivers Khalid Al-Qassimi , Michel Saleh , Ziad Chehab