saleh aims for cyprus boost as big two head for middle east title showdown
Michel Saleh has set himself a clear target in this weekend’s Cyprus Rally as the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah head for a showdown which could decide this year’s FIA Middle East Championship.
Partnered by Lebanese co-driver Joseph Mattar in his City of Arabia Subaru Impreza, Saleh is aiming for a podium finish to boost his challenge for third place overall in this year’s Middle East series behind the two big title rivals.
His hopes have been brightened by the news that the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi, who holds fourth place in the championship, four points ahead of Saleh, will not be competing in Cyprus.
The UAE-based Lebanese driver hopes to capitalise on Al Qassimi’s absence and pile the pressure on Jordan’s Amjad Farrah who currently holds third place in the series, with two further rounds to follow in Lebanon and Dubai.
“I’ll really be going for it this weekend because I want a podium finish and if I can get that I will have a chance of finishing third in the championship,” said Saleh.
“I’ve done seven rallies in Cyprus, including two in the World Rally Championship, and I finished third in the Troodos Rally here earlier this year so I know the conditions well.
“The stages are very long which I like. This is good for my car which we’ve rebuilt completely for this event, and I’m hoping for the right result.”
Saleh is particularly happy to have the vastly experienced Mattar alongside him in the City of Arabia Subaru. The Lebanese co-driver has navigated in 11 rallies in Cyprus and could be a major asset for his fellow-countryman.
Beginning with a ceremonial start tomorrow (Friday) at the Lemesos Promenade, the 2007 Cyprus Rally begins in earnest on Saturday with four special stages leading to a final five stages on Sunday.
Sheikh Khalid leads Al-Attiyah by 11 points, and Qatar’s defending Middle East champion is determined to grab victory in Cyprus to ensure that his big UAE rival does not have an easy ride to this year’s title over the last two rounds.