Published October 16th, 2006 - 07:12 GMT

 Mohammed Ben Sulayem will lobby FIA decision makers in Spain this week in a bid to create a “free zone” for rally and racing drivers in the Gulf, a move which he says will boost motor sport in the region at local and international level.

Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE, flew to Barcelona today to attend the four-day FIA annual congress starting tomorrow, and he was determined to have an influence on the men who rule world motor sport, including FIA President Max Mosley

“I’ll be meeting a lot of the top decision makers, and I want them to agree to lift the restriction which holds up drivers eager to compete outside their home country in the Gulf region,” said the 14-times former Middle East rally champion, who becomes the first UAE national to attend the annual assembly of motor sport’s world governing body in an official capacity.

Sulayem went to Barcelona with the full support of Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais, UAE minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development and the General
Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare.

Current FIA regulations mean that drivers holding competition licences issued by their local  motor sport clubs can take part only in rallies, or other motor sport events such as circuit races, in their home country. To be able to contest national events in other Gulf countries they must gain an international competitor’s licence, which is awarded to drivers only after they have competed in a minimum of six local events. Sulayem wants the FIA to lift the restriction and create a Gulf zone to allow drivers to contest national events in any of the Gulf countries once they have their local competitor’s licence. A northern zone for Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Cyprus already exists.
Sulayem – FIA 2

He is being backed by the national motor sport clubs (ASNS) which officially represent the FIA in the Middle East and approved his recommendation at their annual meeting in Beirut in July.
Said Sulayem: “Our aim is to strengthen the Middle East Championship, and regional motor sport as a whole. We need to attract more drivers and make it easier for them to compete on a regional basis. Having a Gulf zone, instead of restrictions from country to country, will open up motor sport for more drivers once they get their local competitors’ licence.

“They could compete in national events across the region and find it easier and quicker to get  into the Middle East Championship and other international events.” Sulayem took over as President of the new-look ATCUAE in April when it came under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Khalfan Hareb, Mohammed Atik Al Qamzi and Saeed Al Tayer were elected as board members.

“Sheikh Mohammed has placed great trust in us to oversee motor sport and it’s an honour to represent my country at the FIA annual congress. We’re laying the foundations for a new era of motor sport, and it’s vital that we stay closely in touch with developments world wide and have the chance to take part in discussions and decision-making at the top level.”

The ATCUAE organises next month’s UAE Desert Challenge, final round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup and the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship, as well as the Dubai and UAE International Rallies in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

In its new expanded role it will oversee the full range of motor sport activities in the UAE, including rallying, karting, drag racing, hill climbs and a variety of motor bike activities such as moto cross. It will also have overall responsibility for circuit racing


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