Sheikh Majed Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum will flag-off the 31st edition of the Dubai International Rally, the final round of the 2009 Middle East Rally Championship, (on Thursday evening, December 3) from the start ramp in Downtown Burj Dubai.
President of the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) Mohammed Ben Sulayem thanked the Dubai Ruler’s Court and HH Sheikh Majed for their unflinching support to the Dubai International Rally for over three decades.
Sulayem, who is also FIA Vice President, said: “Ever since the Dubai International Rally was launched in 1978, the event has enjoyed vital support from the Dubai Ruler’s Court. Thanks to the Government of Dubai, it has set the standard for FIA Middle East Championship rallying over the years, and is now the longest running international sporting event in the UAE.
“The motor sport scene here has changed dramatically in recent years and there are so many new events and disciplines now. But the Dubai International Rally is an important part of our sporting history and will always be one of our flagship events,” Sulayem added.
The ATCUAE president said he was happy to confirm Emaar Properties as the principal sponsor of the rally.
“Emaar’s association with the Dubai International Rally opens up a new chapter in the country’s motorsport history. International drivers and guests will witness the action on Emaar Boulevard, the nerve centre of Downtown Burj Dubai.
“As the only FIA-authorised organisation in the UAE, we harness the support given to us by local organisations and departments. To that end, apart from Emaar, this edition of the rally has also garnered support from The Address Hotels + Resorts, Emarat, Oasis and Explorer. The government support comes from Dubai Ports & Dubai Customs, Dubai Police, Immigration, Road and Transport Authority, Ministry of Civil Defence. Ministry of Youth and Culture and Social Development also support the rally,” he noted.
Looking ahead to what lies in store for the next three days, Sulayem said the race for the MERC crown is expected to touch a boiling point when the rally gets underway with just three points separating the top two contenders.
“This has always been the case with Dubai International Rally; the rally has decided the FIA MERC champion over the years, but this year in particular, the championship is still very wide open between the top two contenders – Nasser Al Attiyah and Mesfir Al Marri with Yazeed Al Rajhi waiting in the wings for either make a mistake.
“It is going to be a great finish, very close and I am happy that such a fantastic contest is taking place in Dubai and at a time when the MERC is celebrating its 25th anniversary,” Sulayem, himself a 14-time Middle East Rally champion, added.
Five-time MERC champion Al Attiyah will be looking to seal his sixth title with another win in Dubai.
“I am aware that some of our local drivers are out of contention for the overall MERC title, but that should not deter them from using all their years of experience to try and secure podium finishes here,” Sulayem added, noting that “apart from the overall title, winning the Dubai Rally has been coveted by most, if not all, regional drivers.”
The three-team UAE contingent consists of Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi in a Subaru Impreza STI, Rashid Al Ketbi in a Skoda Fabia S2000 and Sadiq Fadhel in a Mitsubishi Evo X.
The Dubai Rally also brings another first as it will host the Pirelli Star Driver programme’s final shoot-out for the Middle East region.
“Pirelli Star Driver scheme, the worldwide hunt for young drivers from the regional championships, is a platform for talented competitors to reach the World Championship level. The programme, endorsed by Pirelli and the FIA, drives the most talented and promising young drivers from the FIA regional championships in Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East,” Sulayem disclosed.
The Dubai International Rally includes six young drivers from the Middle East with the top performer joining a group of five talented young drivers from around the world.
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