Michel Saleh is hoping that the arrival of a brand new car and the return of international rallying in Kuwait after a 12-year gap can boost his challenge in this year’s FIA Middle East Championship.
Saleh enters a new City of Arabia Subaru Impreza N14 in the Kuwait International Rally on February 28th and March 1st , and while the event is not a part of this year’s FIA regional series it comes precisely at the right time for the UAE-based Lebanese driver.
After suffering a series of problems in the opening round of the championship in Qatar last month Saleh wants to get as much time as he can in the new car at full rally speed
before the second round of the regional series in Cyprus from 16-18th May.
“I tested it a little in Qatar and I’m going to test it again before the start of the rally in Kuwait,” said Saleh, who wants to reward his City of Arabia sponsors, Ilyas and Mostafa Galadari, with an early season win. “It’s not very different from my old car, but I want to get to know it as well as I can before Cyprus.”
Partnered by Lebanese co-driver Ahmad Ghaziri, Saleh battled his way to fifth place in Qatar after dropping from contention on the first leg with brake problems and punctures. He hopes for a trouble-free run in his new City of Arabia Subaru in Kuwait, where the first international rally since 1996 is being staged with the backing of the FIA, motor sport’s world governing body, as a candidate event for the 2009 Middle East Championship.
The 2008 Kuwait International Rally is taking place under the patronage of H.E. Excellency Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the Prime Minister of Kuwait.
Kuwait helped introduce international rallying in the Middle East in the late 1970s and early 1980s and the Kuwait International Rally was a round of the FIA regional series until the Iraqi invasion in 1989 and the subsequent Gulf War.
The Kuwait Rally returned to the championship in 1995 and 1996, first running as the Martyrs’ Rally, in memory of Sheikh Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, a prominent member of the ruling Al-Sabah family who was killed while defending the Sief Palace during the 1990 Iraqi invasion.
The 720.54km event, featuring 248.72km of special stages, will be based at the Kuwait Shooting Club and starts with a super special stage at the Jaber Al Ahmad International Circuit in Kuwait City on 28th February.
Leg one continues the following day with a further six gravel special stages, while the final leg on 1st March features six more gravel stages and a re-run of the super special.
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