MERC: Lebanon Rally preview

Arab World's Top Driver Will Get a Special Version of the Ford Focus World Rally Car for Tough Lebanon Rally Mohammed Ben Sulayem took victory in the Jordan International Rally again , knowing that a special version of the Ford Focus World Rally...

Arab World's Top Driver Will Get a Special Version of the Ford Focus World Rally Car for Tough Lebanon Rally

Mohammed Ben Sulayem took victory in the Jordan International Rally again , knowing that a special version of the Ford Focus World Rally Car is already waiting to improve his odds at the next FIA Middle East Rally Championship challenge in Lebanon. A dedicated version of the Focus WRC, specially built and tuned for all-tarmac road conditions, is being readied for one of the biggest challenges facing the Arab champion, the Rally of Lebanon (June 29 96 July 1), where he will team up for the last time with his former co-pilot, Ronan Morgan.

Based on knowledge acquired both by Ford's World Rally Championship team, with Ford drivers Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz, and the Ford MERC team led by Ben Sulayem, a lighter version of the Focus WRC has been developed for next month's rally, during a process of constant development.

"The car I'll be driving in Lebanon is lighter than the regular current one," said the 12-times Middle East champion, "It will give me even better handling on the twisty and slippery tarmac roads there. I will go back to my regular Focus WRC afterwards."

He added: "A tremendous amount of work constantly goes into the development of the Focus, to keep it the best rally car on the road today, regardless of the conditions, whether it's Jordan , Lebanon next month, or Argentina, where Colin just has scored a great World Championship win." .

Middle East Group N champion aims to give new sponsors a double title success this season . the UAE's Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi has been given a new lease of life as he pursues his third Middle East title, and his fifth UAE championship. The reigning Middle East Group N champion says the support of major new sponsors, Sharjah Airport International Free Zone, has given a fresh impetus to his rally programme in the fourth round of this year's UAE National Championship.

Decorated in the SAIF-Zone livery, his brand new Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 made its debut in last weekend's Jordan International Rally, and Sheikh Abdullah took another big step towards retaining his Middle East Group N crown.

"I really wanted to win Group N to thank SAIF-Zone for supporting me," said Sheikh Abdullah, edged out by Qatar's Hamad Al Sowaidi after a hat-trick of Group N wins in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Bahrain.

"But my second place has put me in a very strong position to win the Group N title, and that's my main aim this season."

Added Sheikh Abdullah: "I feel a little bit like a kid with a new toy. I'm very pleased to have the new car, For the UAE championship, he will continue to use his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5, which has now been updgraded to Group A, and has also been decorated in the SAIF-Zone livery.

Sheikh Abdullah will be looking to extend his lead in the race for this year's UAE title when the fourth round of the series gets under way on the Ras Al Khaimah Road near Dreamland in Umm Al Quwain on Thursday, with three stages on the first leg to be followed by three more on Friday.

New car & sponsership for Lebanon Mishel Salah

Lebanon's Michel Saleh, announced that he has signed a two-year sponsorship agreement which establishes the Damas UAE Rally Team.

Driving his ageing Toyota Celica GT-4 in Jordan, Saleh hopes the backing of the leading UAE jewellery chain, which boasts endorsement links with supermodel Claudia Schiffer, can add more than a touch of glamour to his rally programme.

He says he will drive a rented World Rally Car in the Lebanon and Dubai rounds, and while his prospects in this year's championship are limited, he plans to complete the purchase to launch a powerful assault on the 2002 Middle East series.

Mishel Salah is also in the entry list for this year WRC Cyprus rally in his "old" Celica turbo .

-duby miller

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About this article
Series Other rally , WRC
Drivers Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Michel Saleh , Ronan Morgan