The Oman Automobile Association (OAA) has announced the provisional entry list for the 2015 Oman International Rally, round seven of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), it was revealed yesterday. According to details, Qatar’s recently crowned regional champion Nasser bin Saleh Al Attiyah starts as the top seed, while Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi lines up at two in his Citroën DS3 RRC.
Al Attiyah clinched the regional title in Jordan three weeks ago and could equal Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s record of 60 MERC victories if he can achieve success in Oman on November 5 and 7.
Al Qassimi is a former winner of the Sultanate of Oman’s premier motor sport event, which will take place over 13 timed gravel special stages.
The Emirati teams up with Ulsterman Chris Patterson, as he chases an eighth MERC event win.
Patterson, meanwhile, is the third most successful co-driver in Middle East history and needs one more victory to join the Italian Giovanni Bernacchini on 25 wins. Oman’s return to regional rallying has attracted 20 entries, with Al Attiyah, Al Qassimi and Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al Kuwari and Khalid Al Suwaidi seeded in the top four.
The host nation is also well represented with 10 entrants. Khalid Al Manji and his navigator Saif Al Aisri lead the Omani crews in their Subaru Impreza. Other local drivers include Saif Al Harthy of the OVT Rally Team, Zakariya Al Ofi, Faisal Al Rashdi, Humaid Al-Waili, Hamid Al-Qasmi, Haitham Al Zadjali, Zakariya Said, Ahmed Qassim Al Zadjali and Ehab Al-Zadali.
The Kuwaiti duo of Meshari Al-Thafiri and Salah Bin Eidan, Germany’s Edith Weiss and Qatar’s Rashid Al Naimi are vying for Group N Championship points, while Abu Dhabi Racing has also entered a pair of two-wheel drive Citroen DS3 R3s for the Emirati drivers, Saeed Bintowq and Mansoor Bel Helai.
“We are delighted to see so many local teams on the entry list for our return to the FIA Middle East Rally Championship,” enthused Suleiman bin Abdullah Al Rawahi, event director of the Oman International Rally.
“We have strength in depth on the entry list and we are sure that the competitors will enjoy the challenging terrain and special stages that make the Oman Rally so popular and so demanding.”
The event will be based at the Oman Automobile Association’s headquarters at Airport Heights, near Muscat.
The ceremonial start takes place at the Muscat Wave from 6pm on Thursday, November 5th and precedes the opening super special stage at 6.45pm.