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Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah (right), President of Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federataion, is seen with Qatari rally driver Khalid Al Suwaidi in this file photo in 2012.
DOHA: Nasser Al Attiyah and Khalid Al Suwaidi will be among four Qataris in action when the 2013 Qatar International Rally gets under way tomorrow.
Al Attiyah will be aiming to make it 10 title wins on his home turf while Al Suwaidi, backed by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF), will be eager to make his mark in Doha.
Last year’s winner Abdulaziz Al Kuwari and Al Suwaidi will be driving M-Sport built cars during the two-day event. The fourth driver to represent Qatar is Abdullah Al Kuwari, who will be seen in action in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.
The event, organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) will consist of 18 teams, with international competitors from the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Northern Ireland, England, Lebanon and Ireland competing.
The QMMF President Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah has won this event in 1993.
This year’s event, which is the opener for the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, has an exciting new route in the desert in northern Qatar.
Al Suwaidi, who will be joined with co-driver Nicola Arena of Italy said the new stages will be a challenge. He said: “The new stages are quite a challenge. The first two are nice, a bit like the stages on Dubai Rally, but the third one is rough in places and very challenging. We had three punctures on the recce so it could be interesting for the rally!”
The Qatari drivers will be expecting a strong challenge from the Abu Dhabi Racing Team from the UAE, who will field five teams.
Led by Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, the team can count on the experienced Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi who returns for another season of desert rallying with British co-driver Steve Lancaster in a Ford Fiesta.
A multiple former regional Group N champion, Sheikh Abdullah’s solitary MERC win came at the 2000 UAE International Rally.
Neither Mohammed Al Sahlawi nor Mohamed Al Mutawaa have participated in a rally before and Qatar is a baptism of fire for the two Abu Dhabi Racing Team rookies. Northern Ireland’s Allan Harryman and Stephen McAuley are responsible for keeping the newcomers out of trouble.
“I have some experience racing in various disciplines on circuits but rallying is complete new to me,” said Mutawaa.
“Both of us are learning as much as possible. We had a test two days ago and sat in a rally car in Sharjah, but this is all new to us,” he added.
The pair will be driving a brand new R3 2WD Citroën DS3s from Citroën Sport.
Elsewhere, Yazeed Al Rajhi is the flag bearer for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Al Rajhi is rated as one of the fastest Arab drivers on the planet and he and co-driver Michael Orr will be eyeing a victory in Qatar.
There are three representative drivers from Jordan.
The talented Alaa Rasheed teams up with Lebanese co-driver Joseph Matar in a Motortune Ford Fiesta. Hani Al-Bast (Mitsubishi) and co-driver Ata Al-Hmoud and Zaid Dahshan (Mitsubishi), and Ramzi Mansour complete the Jordanian line-up.
Rasheed, who will be taking part in the full MERC programme as well as six European rounds of the World Rally Championship, said: “The Fiesta is fantastic to drive. The car gives you confidence, even on the rougher stages. You can push a lot harder and drive faster. I am really looking forward to this rally.”
The Rally gets underway 08.00am tomorrow and finishes on Saturday afternoon at 16:20pm. THE PENINSULA