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DOHA: Qatari rally driver Khalid Al-Suwaidi, the winner of last year’s Kuwait International Rally, has receiving ongoing support from the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) and will tackle all rounds of this year’s FIA Middle East Rally Championship, starting with next weekend’s Qatar International Rally.
Al Suwaidi is one of a group of young Qatari rally drivers who is beginning to make his mark on the international scene after gaining experience in the QMMF’s flourishing national rally series.
He has been a regular face on rounds of the MERC in recent years and tackled rallies last year with British co-driver Nicky Beech.
In 2013, he teams up with the experienced Italian navigator Nicola Arena, who finished first overall in the regional series with Misfer Al Marri in 2010 and ended last season in third position in the co-drivers’ standings.
Al Suwaidi and Arena will crew a Ford Fiesta RRC on the two-day Qatar International Rally, which features a new route to the north of Doha and a new service area at Qatar Aqua Park.
“Khalid and Nicola will use the original Fiesta WRC-winning car from Sweden 2011, the first ever Fiesta to win a WRC event,” said team manager Ken Skidmore.
“It is a famous vehicle and it’s not for sale! When Khalid finishes his programme the car is going into a museum. It’s a priceless piece of motor sport history.”
It was in this car that Al Suwaidi claimed his one and only MERC victory in Kuwait last season and he will be looking to continue the good form he showed in Dubai last December against a formidable line-up of rivals in Qatar.
Skidmore also confirmed that his UK-based Autotek Motorsport operation would run the M-Sport Qatar Team car for defending regional champions, Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini.
A cruel water pump failure robbed Al-Attiyah of a potential podium finish in the Dakar Rally that finishes on Saturday in Chile and Al Attiyah’s focus has now switched to the home event that he has won nine times in the past 10 years.
At the start of the ninth stage, Al-Attiyah was second in the overall classification for cars, just over three minutes behind Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel, who is pushing for his 11th Dakar Rally win.
The Qatari driver, who won the race in 2011 and was second in 2010, was taking part in a buggy developed over the last five months by Red Bull Motorsport.
The 2013 Qatar International Rally gets underway from the QMMF at 08.00hrs on January 25th and finishes at 16.20hrs on January 26th after 12 timed desert special stages. the peninsula