saleh drives city of arabia team towards double target in 2008
Michel Saleh says the Dubai-based City of Arabia Rally Team can make a bigger impact on the FIA Middle East Championship next year and at the same time give a good account of itself on the world stage.
Saleh has received funding from sponsors Ilyas and Mostafa Galadari to acquire a brand new Subaru Impreza and is confident of stepping up his Middle East challenge in 2008 after finishing fifth in the recently completed 2007 FIA regional series.
At the same time the vastly experienced UAE-based Lebanese driver is currently formulating plans for the City of Arabia Team to contest at least three rounds of next year’s FIA Production Car World Rally Championship.
“We want to be as competitive as possible in our first season in the World Championship and so we’re looking very closely at this before confirming which events we’ll be doing,” said Saleh.
“The new car has been ordered and I’m very grateful to my sponsors for making this possible. They’ve given me great support this year and they’re right behind me for 2008 so obviously I want to reward them.
Added Saleh: “We’ve had some bad luck this year, including the crash in the rain in Lebanon. That cost me my chance of third place in the Middle East Championship and I eventually missed fourth by one point.
“But that’s behind us now and the team is looking forward to next year. We’re targeting a top three place in the championship and we might surprise a few people in Production Car World Championship as well.”
Partnered by Lebanese co-driver Ziad Chihab, Saleh overcame a series of mechanical problems to claim fourth place in last week’s Dubai International Rally, final round of the 2007 Middle East series.
He says Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Middle East champion for the third year in a row after his dramatic victory in Dubai, is clearly the man to beat again in 2008, particularly as the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi will not be contesting the regional series as he concentrates on the World Rally Championship.
“Nasser is a fantastic driver and will be very difficult to beat,” he said. “He’s the big favourite to win the Middle East title again, and if he has a trouble free season he could
take the Production Car world title as well.