Muscat: The Oman Automobile Association (OAA), especially in the last couple of years, has been working tirelessly to develop motorsport as whole, paying attention to not only developing the state of the art facilities but also dedicating time and energy on popularising each and every discipline, including go-karting and drifting as well as motorcycling events, while providing opportunities to motorsport aficionados of the Sultanate to practice and participate in the sport they love most.
But all along the association’s ambitious team, under OAA Chairman Brigadier Salim Al Maskary, has been nurturing the dream of placing Oman back on the international rally map.
And if the OAA officials are to be believed they have moved one step closer to getting the Oman International Rally included in the Middle East Rally Championship calendar, where it once occupied pride of place as one of the favourite events of the regional rallyists.
And to return to that glory days, the OAA first needs to host a successful Oman International Rally this year as a candidate event for the Middle East Rally Championship, an objective the officials are confident of achieving.
If the OAA officials succeed in hosting a successful 2014 edition, scheduled for October 30 to November 1, and impress an observer from international motorsport body Fia, then the Oman round will return to the regional championship calendar after an eight-year hiatus.
“We are hosting the Oman International Rally this year as a candidate event for the Middle East Rally Championship and our sole aim is to get the nod for our event to be included in the regional championship,” OAA Deputy Director Anwar Al Zadjali said during a media event organised to announce the rally details at Hormuz Grand Hotel on Wednesday.
In fact, the OAA official sounded confident of achieving the goal, saying: “We are sure of hosting a great candidate event this year and be part of the Middle East Rally by next year.”
Anwar, of course, has every reason to be confident and two of the main reasons being the dedicated team at the OAA and the popularity of the Sultanate as a great venue for rallying.
“Thanks to the picturesque locations, the Sultanate has been a great venue and a favourite round of the rally drivers even back in 2007 when we hosted the last of our Middle East Rally Championships rounds,” he said.
“Back then it was considered the best by the drivers and they used to enjoy competing here. Because of the different and varied conditions, it was also considered one of the toughest rounds.”
“And we are sure it will be no different for the drivers who will be coming here this year and the years to come,” a confident Anwar added. “We are also confident of hosting a great event because every one of us, including the four special committees we have formed, have been working hard for the last three months with one objective of organising a successful and impressive event,” he said.
Anwar also said all the regional associations have promised to support our rally.
“We are also expecting drivers from all the GCC countries to take part in our event. Abdu Dhabi Racing Team have already confirmed their participation with six cars. We are hoping to have 20 to 25 teams, which we believe is good for a candidate event,” he said.
Speaking at the press briefing, Hani Shaaban said the special aspect of the Oman rally is the tarmac stages.
“For the first time in the entire region, Oman event will have 15 per cent of the rally will be run on the tarmac. This is a new aspect that will surely be of great interest to the drivers as well as the spectators,” he said.
Asked about the main criteria for the event to be included in the regional championship calendar, he said: “Safety. That is of paramount importance. The Fia observer will be looking at the safety aspect, the safety of the drivers, officials and of course the spectators.”
Giving the details of the rally, he said: “There will be 180kms of special stages and the total distance of the rally will be 700km.”
Speaking on the occasion, Ministry of Sports Affairs representative Ahmed bin Faisal Al Jahadhamy said the ministry is happy to be supporting the rally and hoped it will become a great success.
“As in the past, the Ministry of Sports Affairs will give complete backing to the Oman International Rally. And thanks to the different climatic and geographical conditions, the Oman rally will surely be a hit with the drivers as well as the spectators,” he said.