The trio of Arab drivers who will fight it out for the title of 2014 FIA Middle East Rally champion this weekend now know the size of the task facing them in the 36th Dubai International Rally.
After two days of official reconnaissance of the route, the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah and Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, are prepared for a battle of wits when the main action gets under way on Friday morning.
First, the 21 drivers assembled in Dubai for the climax of this year’s FIA regional series head for the Thursday night ceremonial start at Dubai World Trade Centre at 7.30pm.
The following morning, top-seeded Al Attiyah and co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini in a Ford Fiesta RRC tackle the first of six special stages each to be run twice over two legs adding up to 251.06kms of competitive sections in a total route of 1008.97kms.
The mathematics in Middle East Championship terms are straight forward for Al Attiyah and Al Qassimi, with Qatar’s defending champion holding a six-point lead over the Emirati driver who would take the title by a single point should he beat his big rival into second place in Dubai.
While Al Kuwari has another three points to make up and will need factors beyond his control to intervene if he is to become champion, he cannot be discounted.
Neither can the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi and Rashid Al Ketbi who both will be hoping to join the elite group of drivers to have won the Dubai International Rally without ending the season in the possession of the Middle East title.
That feat was achieved by Al Attiyah in 2004 and Sheikh Khalid in 2005 and 2006, and their rivalry should ensure another fascinating tussle for supremacy this weekend.
“We have all the ingredients for another classic Dubai International Rally to decide the outcome of the Middle East Championship,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers.
“We’ve designed the route to be challenging but fair. As the drivers now know after carrying out their recces over the last two days, it provides a good test of all round driving ability, and mistakes can be punished.”
Taking place under the patronage of H.H Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the UAE National Olympic Committee, the Dubai International Rally is one of the main attractions of the 2nd edition of Dubai Motor Festival.
For a fifth year the event is based at Dubai Men’s College, in the Higher Colleges of Technology campus at Academic City, and the Rally HQ and service park are a hive of activity as the teams make final preparations before the start.
Each of the vehicles go through scrutineering tomorrow (Thursday) morning before the final official list of starters is revealed in the afternoon ahead of the ceremonial start.