Thrilling new stage set for Manateq Qatar International Rally

Officials at the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) are putting the final touches to a ground-breaking new start to this weekend’s Manateq Qatar International Rally, round one of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

A later than usual start is planned at Souq Al Wakrah to draw in spectators for an exciting new super special stage, where drivers will compete in pairs against each other tomorrow evening. The first national rally crews will take to the start line at 9.05pm and the international runners head into action from 9:25pm. The thrilling side-by-side action will be filmed live by Al Rayyan television. 

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Nasser Al-Attiyah/ Matthieu Baumel

Revisions to the rally timetable have now been issued by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF). Tomorrow (March 14th) will be a hectic day at both the Lusail Sports Club and at Souq Al Wakrah later in the evening. After technical scrutineering at Lusail between 8am and 1pm, the event will move to Souq Al Wakrah for the remainder of the day.

Several of the leading competitors will attend the official pre-event press conference at 7:50pm and this precedes the ceremonial start from 8:15pm and the much anticipated new super special stage. To add that little extra spice to the opening ceremony and first day’s time schedule, Batabit has organised a motorcade that will run from Doha to Al Wakrah and Manateq’s CEO Fahad Rashed al-Kaabi is planning a run through the stage after all the competition cars have completed the special. 

The largest fleet of cars taking part in this week’s are being supported and managed on the event by the Lebanese-based RS-Team. Defending MERC 2 champion Meshari al-Thefiri will line up in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution alongside former MERC series runner-up Nasser Khalifa al-Attiyah, reigning MERC 3 champion Henry Kahy, Lebanon’s Ahmad Khaled and the Qatari duo of Mohammed al-Meer and Rashid al-Mohannadi. 

The RS-Team will also run a seventh vehicle in the Manateq Qatar National Rally for Nadim Ziade in his trusty little Renault Clio RS. The RS-Team also confirmed that three of those cars will make the trip to Jordan for the second round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship in April and his team will field an impressive eight cars in Lebanon. The meat of the action will take place over 10 gravel special stage to the north of Doha on Friday and Saturday. 

Qatar’s Dakar rally champion Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah heads a superb 29-car entry for the Manateq Qatar International Rally The regional rally series has struggled in recent seasons to attract new teams, but sterling effort and hard work by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) has seen a resurgence in interest in rallying in the region and the Qatar event has been rewarded with the largest entry seen for several years.

While al-Attiyah and his French navigator Matthieu Baumel start as clear favourites to give their Autotek Motorsport Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 a winning debut – just two weeks after winning the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country round of the FIA World Cup – there is strength in depth throughout the entry list.

Adel Abdulla was second overall at the event last November and also runs Ford Fiesta R5 for the second time, while former rally winner Abdulaziz al-Kuwari returns to action with a Skoda Fabia and regular Irish co-driver Killian Duffy. There are also R5 Ford Fiesta entries for the 1993 regional champion Sheikh Hamed bin Eid al-Thani and a returning Nasser Khalifa al-Attiyah.

“We are delighted to be back in our customary slot at the start of the season and hosting the opening round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship,” enthused QMMF President Abdulrahman al-Mannai.
“Our goal is to continue the resurgence of the regional rally championship and to see it develop and flourish in the future.

The series has struggled for entries in recent seasons, but we have worked hard to attract teams and to make it possible for them to come to Qatar. I am delighted with the strength in depth of the entry we have received.”

Source: Gulf Times