The 35th annual Dubai International Rally looks set to be an all out scrap as former Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah looks to make it seven event wins on the bounce in the UAE in the Ford Fiesta RRC.[Not a valid template]
Having already sewn up the 2013 FIA Middle East Rally championship for the ninth time, World Rally Championship competitor Nasser Al-Attiyah heads into this weekend’s Dubai International Rally hoping to seal the deal in the UAE for a seventh consecutive time. It would mark the end of a dominant season for the former Dakar Rally champion, who has dropped only one win from five outings this season to Roger Feghali, two rounds ago in Lebanon.
Now while the odds may seem massively in Al-Attiyah’s favour, the #1 Ford Fiesta RRC runner – together with co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini from Poland – faces competition from two of his fellow countrymen as well as ten Emirati drivers keen to put in a good showing on home turf. Qatari Misfer Al Marri – 2010 FIA Middle East Rally champion – lines up alongside Italian co-driver Nicola Arena in the #3 Ford Fiesta RRC, while Abdulla Al Kuwari upholds Qafac Rally Team honours with Emirati co-driver Khalid Al Kendi in the #9 Mitsubishi Evo 10.
Heading the UAE competitive charge is World Rally Championship runner Khalid Al Qassimi in the #2 Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT-entered Citroen DS3 RRC. Al Qassimini, the 2004 FIA Middle East Rally champion, took back-to-back victory on the Dubai International Rally in 2005-2006 and shares the cockpit with UK co-driver Scott Marvin. The WRC star’s brother meanwhile, Abdullah Al Qassimi, lines up in the eponymously run #4 Ford Fiesta RRC alongside Brit Steve Lancaster. Abdullah, who finished second last year to eventual winner Al-Attiyah, has competed regularly in the Dubai International Rally since 1983, racking up – as he mentions – ‘at least 15’ starts.
Emirati Rashid Al Ketbi meanwhile has claimed that ‘there will be no excuses’ should he fail to secure victory aboard the #5 Skydive Dubai Rally Team Ford Fiesta RRC. Al Ketbi, who competes in the UAE with German co-driver Karina Hepperle, undertook a nine-event program in this year’s World Rally Championship WRC2 category, securing a best of third in-class in France. Mohammed Al Mutawaa meanwhile upholds Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT in the #22 DS3 R3 alongside countryman Mohammed Al Sahlawi in the sister #23 entry.
Bader Al Jaberi’s (#10, Subaru Impreza N15), Majed Al Shamsi (#12, Impreza), Abdulla Al Ketbi (#18, Mitsubshi Evo X) and Suhail Al Maktoum (#19, Impreza) round out the UAE contingent on home turf.