Ben Sulayem captures 13th Middle East title by taking Ford Focus WRC to emphatic win in Syria Arab World's Top Driver Keeps Ford On Course For Another Manufacturers' Championship Triumph Mohammed Ben Sulayem is FIA Middle East champion for the...
Ben Sulayem captures 13th Middle East title by taking Ford Focus WRC to emphatic win in Syria
Arab World's Top Driver Keeps Ford On Course For Another Manufacturers' Championship Triumph
Mohammed Ben Sulayem is FIA Middle East champion for the 13th time after taking his Ford Focus World Rally Car to an emphatic victory in the Syrian International Rally today.
The Arab world's top driver will now look to underline Ford's Middle East dominance by clinching the manufacturers' championship in the final round of the season in Dubai in November.
That seems little more than a formality, as Ben Sulayem aims for the perfect finale to the season to mark the 100th anniversary of Ford's debut in motor sports.
Even in the unlikely event that Mitsubishis were to win the final two rounds in Cyprus and Dubai, a fourth place by Ben Sulayem in his home event -- which he has won 13 times - would be enough to give Ford a fifth double Middle East title success.
Partnered by Jordanian co-driver, Khaled Zakaria, in the Ford Focus WRC, Ben Sulayem had 7 mins 59 secs to spare over second-placed Qatari driver Hamad Al Sowaidi as he scored his 54th career victory in the Middle East Championship.
Sharjah's Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi finished third to move within two points of the Middle East Group N championship for the second year in a row.
UAE-based Lebanese driver Michel Saleh claimed fourth place ahead of Cypriot champion Andreas Tsouloftas who had slipped from second to fifth on the penultimate stage when his Group A Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 broke its suspension.
At the conclusion of the Syrian International Rally's debut in the Middle East series, the spotlight was once again on Ford, and Ben Sulayem, who said at the finish in Damascus: "I'm happy to be champion again, and now I want to make sure Ford take the manufacturers' title, because they deserve it.
"They are the only manufacturer supporting the championship, and I just hope that others will follow their example and give their backing to drivers in the Middle East."
Tsouloftas, who had been unable to mount a challenge to the Ford Focus WRC while lying second, is close to finalising a deal which would see him driving another World Rally Car in next year's title race.
If Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Bakhashab and Oman's Hamed Al Wahaibi can be tempted back from the FIA Teams Cup in the World Championship, and Al Qassimi makes the step up from Group N, the expanding Midde East series would be given an extra dimension.
Second-day casualties in Syria included Qatar's Mubarak Al Hajri, who had been lying second overnight before mechanical problems put his Group N Mitsubishi out at the start of the second leg. There were nine finishers out of 23 starters, with Jordanian lady driver Nancy Al Majali recording her best finish to date in ninth spot. <pre> Provisional results: 1. M. Ben Sulayem / K.Zakaria (UAE/HKJ) Ford Focus WRC (A) 2hrs 19mins 20secs 2. H.Al Sowaidi / M.Morrissey (QT/IRL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 (N) 2:27:19 3. A.Al Qassimi / T.Al Warshaw (UAE/UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 (N) 2:33:05 4. M.Saleh / M.Al Hariri (RL/HKJ) Toyota Celica GT-4 (A) 2:35:14 5. A.Tsouloftas / A/Achilos (CY/CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 (A) 2:35:16
FIA Middle East Championship leading positions:
1. M.Ben Sulayem (UAE) 50pts (champion) 2. A.Al Qassimi (UAE) 24pts 3. H.Al Sowaidi (QT)16pts 4. A.Tsouloftas (CY) 12pts
Group N Championship: 1. A.Al Qassimi (UAE) 46pts 2. H.Al Sowaidi (QT) 28pts 3. M.Al Hajri (QT) 11pts 4. R.Cremen (AUS) 10pts
Manufacturers' Championship: 1. Ford 50pts; 2. Mitsubishi 33pts