Jordan’s Abir Batikhi, the first Arab woman to compete in the World Rally Championship (WRC), and the UAE’s Rabab Al Tajir, the only all-female team, are busy giving last-minute touches to their car in preparation for the 31st Dubai International Rally which will be flagged off by His Highness Sheikh Majed Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum from Downtown Burj Dubai on December 3.
“This is a big opportunity for Arab women in the region to show that they play an equally big role in society here – including in motor sports,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) and Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the 31st Dubai International Rally, the final round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship.
Batikhi, with over a decade of international rally experience behind her and the owner of AB Racing which she formed in 1997, became the first Arab woman to have competed in a WRC event when she participated in the Jordan round of the championship in 2008.
The Jordanian driver has been a regular participant in the Al Hussein International Rumman Hill Climb since 1999 with a healthy 12th place finish in 2003 in a Mini 1275 GT Turbo, and emerged victorious in the women’s category in the Dubai International Rally in 2002 and 2003.
Speaking on telephone from Jordan, Batihki said: “Ours is the only all-woman team for the Dubai Rally, and Rabab and I will make a formidable team even though we have never partnered before.
Batikhi’s passion for motor sport runs in the family, with her daughter Lina Hadidi a regular on the karting circuit in Jordan.
“Coming back to Dubai after a gap of so many years will be an exciting experience, more so as I have participated in several international rallies in last few years. This puts me in a better position to compete with the other participants,” said Al Batikhi.
Her first-time co-driver Al Tajir comes with years of local experience and has taken part in several UAE national rallies including the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2009 where she navigated for Emirati Matar Al Mansouri.
“I see their presence as an important milestone for women in motorsport and they will hopefully inspire more women to take up challenging sports as a profession in the region,” said Sulayem, who is also FIA Vice President.
“The Dubai International Rally is a crucial destination as the UAE offers a very attractive venue for international drivers. We have set our eyes on this rally for a long time and are raring to compete,” said Al Tajir.
The Dubai International Rally will take place from December 3-5 with the start and finish amidst Downtown Burj Dubai, the world’s most prestigious square kilometre.
The 2009 Dubai International Rally, the 31st edition of the event, has garnered support from Emaar, The Address Hotels + Resorts, Emarat, Oasis and Explorer. The government support for the event comes from Dubai Ports & Dubai Customs, Dubai Police, Immigration, Road and Transport Authority, Ministry of Civil Defense. Ministry of Youth and Culture and Social Development also support the rally.
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