Michel Saleh has had more close shaves in the Dubai International Rally than he can remember, and the veteran UAE-based Lebanese driver is eager to put the record straight this weekend.
Saleh, one of the most recognisable figures in the FIA Middle East Championship over three decades, would love nothing more than to add the Dubai Rally title to his long career CV after a series of near misses over the years.
“I started competing in this event when it was part of the Gulf Rally Challenge, before the Middle East Championship began in 1984, and I’ve finished second five times or more - I can’t remember exactly,” he said. “Like a lot of the other drivers I’m going all out for a win this time. The championship has gone and we’ve got nothing to lose.”
Saleh’s biggest disappointment in Dubai came in 1993 when a top six finish would have given him the Middle East title. But he suffered a trail of problems and lost the title to Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad Al Thani.
At the end of a season littered with mechanical problems, Saleh believes his new Mitsubishi Evolution, sponsored by City of Arabia, one of the region’s largest private projects, is ready for a big finish.
“It tried out in a local rally in Jordan recently and finished second,” he said. “The car is perfect and I’m looking forwards to a good season in next year’s Middle East Championship. But it would be nice to do well in Dubai first.” The Dubai Rally starts from the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel at 9.30am on Thursday.