Dubai International Rally set for classic battle

The Dubai International Rally has produced some dramatic episodes over the last four decades, and the UAE’s longest running sports event promises another fascinating battle at the climax of the 2013 FIA Middle East Championship next week.

 Dubai Rally
Taking place from November 28-30, the 35th Dubai International Rally is endorsed by the office of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and held under the patronage of Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

While Nasser Al Attiyah has already clinched the Middle East title, several of the Arab world’s other top rally drivers will be going all out to prevent the Qatari from rounding off the season with victory in the sixth and final round.

Al Attiyah tops the entry list of 22 drivers which was announced today by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the national motor sport authority and rally organisers.

Among the other leading challengers will be the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, twice a winner in Dubai and this time spearheading a five-car entry by Abu Dhabi Racing.

Also looking for a big finish to the season will be Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi, who has a WRC2 victory to his credit in the 2013 World Rally Championship, and Emirati driver Rashid Al Ketbi, who has also sharpened his approach on the world stage this season.

With Qatar’s 2010 Middle East champion Misfer Al Marri, the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi, and Jordan’s Ala’a Rasheed also entering powerful regional rally cars, there is every possibility of a classic tussle for victory developing in the 35th Dubai International Rally.

“This is a rally that everyone wants to win so there’s a lot at stake for all the top drivers,” said ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem.“We have a very good entry, and there aren’t many rallies outside the World Championship where you will see such a strong line-up of new regional rally cars.”

For a fourth year, the event will be based at Dubai Men’s College, in the Higher Colleges of Technology campus at Academic City, Dubai, which hosts the Rally HQ and service park.

The rally officially gets under way with a ceremonial start at Dubai World Trade Centre at 7.30pm on Thursday, November 28 before the main rally action unfolds along the desert trails over the next two days.

The first leg on Friday morning November 29 takes the competitors through Al Dhaid to the first loop of three special stages at Zubeidah, Al Falaj near Khadra village, and Showka, prior to a service regrouping. The same stages are repeated in the afternoon.

The following day’s second leg features two loops of three stages at Al Dhaid (Police College), Khadra and Mileiha are all in the Al Dhaid/Mileiha area and are easily located from the Sharjah-Kalba Road or the Al Dhaid Road. The survivors will reach the finish at Dubai World Trade Centre at 4.30pm the same day.

Following previous rounds in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Cyprus, Al Attiyah is aiming for his fifth victory of the season, and his seventh in succession in Dubai, alongside co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini in a Ford Fiesta RRC.

Partnered by Scott Martin in his Abu Dhabi Citroen DS3 and already assured of runners-up place in the championship, Al Qassimi wants to add to his wins in 2005 and 2006, while Al Rajhi and Al Ketbi will both be trying to win the event for the first time in Ford Fiesta RRC’s.

Kuwait’s Mishari Al Thefiri is within reach of the Middle East Group N crown, but he must avoid any major mistakes or misfortunes in Dubai to secure the title.

Driving a Mitsubishi Evo 10 partnered by his cousin, Mobarak, as co-driver, Al Thefiri heads into the event leading the production class championship by eight points, knowing that his nearest rival is now out of the running.

But while second-placed Jordanian driver Zaid Dahshan is not contesting the rally, the next two drivers in the standings, Qatar’s Abdulla Al Kuwari and the UAE’s Bader Al Jabri, could both overhaul Al Thefiri should he run into trouble.

Making sure the men don’t have things all their own way, Turkish lady driver Burcu Çetinkaya returns for her third appearance in Dubai, having finished fifth on her debut in the event two years ago, and eighth last year.