MERC: Syria: Rally summary

Multiple Middle East champion keeps Red Bull Ford Focus WRC on course for another title triumph. Mohammed Ben Sulayem completed an emphatic victory in the Syrian International Rally to move within one win of his 14th FIA Middle...

Multiple Middle East champion keeps Red Bull Ford Focus WRC on course for another title triumph.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem completed an emphatic victory in the Syrian International Rally to move within one win of his 14th FIA Middle East Championship title.

Reaching the finish in Damascus in his Red Bull Ford Focus WRC, the Arab world's top driver had a 9 mins 6 secs winning margin over second-placed fellow-UAE driver, Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi.

It was Sulayem's third victory of the season, and he will clinch yet another Middle East Championship crown if he goes on to win the Jordan International Rally in two weeks time.

"It's been another good rally for me," said Sulayem, celebrating at the finish in Damascus with British co-driver, John Spiller. "I've had no problems, and Syria has been good to me again. I enjoy coming here and this is the third time in a row I've won this event."

The rally was over as a contest before the first leg ended on Thursday, after two of three World Rally Cars chasing Sulayem's Red Bull Ford Focus cracked under the pressure. Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Bakhashab went out when his Toyota Corolla WRC shattered its radiator, and the Subaru Impreza WRC of Qatar's Hamad Al Sowaidi blew its turbo.

That left Al Qassimi in another Ford Focus WRC as Sulayem's closest challenger, and although he lost four minutes on the last stage , still reinforced his second position in the championship.

Lebanon's Michel Saleh had held third place overnight in his Group A Toyota Celica GT-4, but he joined the casualty list on the second leg. There were no problems for Sulayem, however, as he cruised to his 58th career victory in the FIA Middle East series.

He will now be the overwhelming favourite to score his fourth win of the season in Jordan where his remarkable record of international victories begun in 1984. He has since won ten more times in Jordan, and he will now be going all out to wrap up another Middle East Championship success in Amman on September 29, with the luxury of two other rounds remaining in Cyprus (October 19-20) and Dubai (December 5-6).

-rally-net-

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Series Other rally
Drivers Michel Saleh