The Lebanese has been the pioneers in Rallying and motor sport in general throughout the Pan Arab region. The ATCL (Automobile and Touring Club of Lebanon) organized the first hill climb race in 1951.
In 1956, The ATCL organized the Hill Climb race of Rabiyeh – Ain Aar with the honored participation of His majesty the late King Hussein of Jordan who won the race.
In 1974 the late Lebanese driver Joe Hindi won the Liban-Syrie Rally which crossed most of the Lebanese and Syrian territories and featured names like Hannu Mikkola (later to be world Champion in 1983) and Jean Todt (later to become the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team manager and currently the FIA president) as a co-pilot for the French driver Jean Francois Piot who came second that year. The rally was nicknamed “the safari of the middle east”.
The first “Marlboro Rallye de Montagne” goes back to 1968. It was won by Jean Bassili on a Renault 10.
In 1986 The Marlboro Rallye de Montagne was considered a round of the Cyprus national rallies championship and in 1987 the rally became a round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship giving back to Lebanon its leading role in motor sports, with the participation of 69 teams from Lebanon, UAE, Cyprus, France, Sweden and Britain. Arab and international drivers were at the Start ramp promising Rally fans a spectacular race. It was won by Mohammed Ben Sulayem on an Opel Manta 400.
In 1992, the Rally saw the participation of the Saudi driver Mamdouh Khayyat (Middle East Rally Championship winner that same year without winning any race). What characterized that participation is that Mamdouh was driving a Lanicia Delta HF integrale that the world champion that same year Didier Auriol had only made one rally in it (Monte Carlo) and the name Auriol was still on the driver’s seat. The rally was won by Maurice Sehnaoui nicknamed “Bagheera” by his children. And Bagheera is a cartoon bear character which runs very fast. Bagheeera drove a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth that year.
1993 saw the participation of the Renault Clio dream team with both drivers Alain Oreille and Jean Ragnotti who came first and second respectively. That year The Marlboro Rallye de Montagne became the Marlboro Rallye du Liban which was renamed the Marlboro Rally of Lebanon in the year 2000. That year, and after several years of persistence, the Marlboro Rally of Lebanon took the next step towards the W.R.C. (World Rally Championship) and got its Candidacy to it.
1994 edition was won by Alex Fiorio who is the son of Cesare Fioro, the manager of the Lancia official world championship team that year. Also
that year, Mohammed Ben Sulayem (14 times Middle east Championship winner) was driving an official Ford Escort RS Cosworth and despite all the huge resources and the official Malcom Wilson team on his back, Mohammed could not beat the late Lebanese Champion Johnny Moacadieh on the Lancia Delta HF Integrale which was locally prepared.
The 1997 edition saw the victory of the Lebanese champion Jean-Pierre Nasrallah over the Saudi driver Abdullah Bakhashab by one ONE second. That year, JP Nasrallah’s team wrote on their T-shirts “ One second could mean second”.
In 1998 a Norvegian driver named Petter Solberg came second that year after Mohammed Ben Sulayem who won the Rally. 5 years later, in 2003 Petter Solberg will become Wolrd Champion.
The 21st century years saw the domination of Roger Feghali who won the Rally editions from 2000 till 2013 except for 2001 (won by the Italian Pierro Liatti) and 2002 (won by Jean-Pierre Nasrallah).