safety fears deny team abu dhabi opportunity to clinch merc title - final 3 stages of dubai international rally cancelled on safety grounds
Team Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi was disappointed to concede the Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) after his challenge was halted by the cancellation of the Dubai International Rally – which was stopped on ‘grounds of safety’ after 11 stages.
Two points clear heading into the final race of the MERC, Al Qassimi ended up finishing the season tied with Nassar Al-Attiyah, who was awarded the Dubai International Rally win as he was leading the field when it was cancelled. The MERC driver’s title will now go to Al-Attiyah as he has won the longest Rally of the season.
And trailing Al-Attiyah by just half a minute before the Rally was called off, Al Qassimi, believed that everything was still to play for going into the final three stages.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the Rally season but I am disappointed that it has ended this way. I would again like to extend my gratitude to the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority for its continuous support of Team Abu Dhabi. I have now got 10 events in the WRC season to look forward to next year. I am also looking forward to focusing on Team Abu Dhabi’s Junior Driver Development Programme and its MERC campaign in 2008. As I will not be driving in the MERC next year, my departure will open the door to the next crop of up-and-coming ‘home-grown’ drivers to make their mark,” said Al Qassimi.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Junior Driver, Sultan Al Ameri, who drives the outfit’s second car, was optimistic of their fortunes going forward.
“I’ve gained a lot in my debut year and can’t wait to put it to the test in next year’s season. Team Abu Dhabi’s Junior Driver Development Programme has world-class training facilities and staff, which have been instrumental in me being able to compete so effectively this year. I would also like to thank the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority for providing me this opportunity to carve out my own career,” said Al Ameri.
Witnessing the Dubai International Rally action from the service park near Fossil Rock, Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, said: “In what has been an amazing year for Abu Dhabi’s WRC and MERC rally programmes, it is disappointing that the regional season has ended this way.
”Safety is of paramount importance to all drivers and teams but it is still a shame that the Team and Khalid have been denied the opportunity to fight to the end.
“Team Abu Dhabi has made great strides this year and, after a brief period of reflection, we will be ready for another season of regional and international competition in 2008, where the Team will continue to promote the Abu Dhabi name to millions of motorsports fans across the globe.”
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