MOTORSPORT NEWSRally

Oman returns to Middle East Rally Championship calendar

The QMMF Qatar International Rally will kick start an exciting new season of FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) action, when the event being organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF), under the presidency of Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah – FIA Vice-President for Sport MENA – takes centre stage on February 5-7, 2015.
 Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini winning the 2014 QMMF Qatar International Rally.
Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini winning the 2014 QMMF Qatar International Rally.

The championship has been expanded to eight rounds in 2015 and the traditional Doha opener precedes a visit to Kuwait in March and a rally in Iran in May, making its first ever appearance in the regional series. After the summer break, action will resume with events in Lebanon and Cyprus in September and a switch to the autumn month of October for the Jordan International Rally.

The Sultanate of Oman returns to the calendar for the first time since 2007 at the start of November and the season ends with the traditional visit to Dubai.

“I am delighted that we have been able to extend the FIA Middle East Rally Championship from six to eight rounds with two top class new events in the calendar,” enthused Al-Attiyah. “A lot of effort has been put in by many people behind the scenes to get the new events off the ground and I am sure that our home event in Qatar will get the new season off to an excellent start.”

The QMMF Qatar International Rally gets underway with a ceremonial start on Thursday, February 5, before two days of competitive action over desert special stages on Friday, February 6 and Saturday, February 7.

The QMMF’s Marwan Musabeh will work as clerk of the course and will be assisted by his newly appointed assistant clerk of the course Hani Shaban. Portugal’s experienced Pedro Almeida joins the team as a consultant, having worked for many years on the WRC round in Portugal and, latterly, with the QMMF on the Sealine Cross-Country Rally.

Syrian Shaban was an integral member of the successful team behind the Syrian International Rally, which ran as a candidate event for the MERC for the first time in 2000 and joined the series the following year. More recently, Shaban has been a senior organiser at the new MERC rallies in Iran and Oman and worked throughout 2014 to ready these events for inclusion in the 2015 calendar.

Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah confirmed his 10th regional championship win after the recent rally in Dubai and the Qatari will be chasing a 12th victory on the Qatar International Rally in the last 13 years and his 55th career MERC win when he takes the start in February.

The QMMF is offering a generous assistance package to international entrants taking part in the opening round of the MERC. Teams will be offered five nights’ free accommodation for driver and co-driver (room and breakfast only) at the Century Hotel in Doha.