World Motorsport Council poised to rubber stamp proposals by FIA Vice President Sulayem as 2012 series heads for climax in Dubai Rally…

Dubai, UAE, 6 November, 2012: As the 2012 FIA Middle East Rally Championship heads for its climax in Dubai, the World Motorsport Council is expected to rubber stamp proposals to revitalise the regional series next season by creating four additional title races to attract young driving talent and boost entries overall.

The plans are to create three new parallel championships within the series – for Group N production cars, young drivers, and 2WD vehicles – and also introduce a T3 category for the first time for 2WD and 4WD buggies.

The proposals, which are aimed at rebuilding the popularity of the Middle East Championship which peaked in the late 1980s and 1990s, are being driven by Dr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Vice President of the FIA, motor sport’s world governing body.

They were approved by the World Rally Commission at a meeting in Paris last week and are now expected to be ratified by the World Motor Sport Council, of which Sulayem is a member, on 5 December. The same meeting, taking place just four days after the Dubai International Rally brings the curtain down on the 2012 FIA Middle East Championship, will also confirm dates for next year in Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, Cyprus and Dubai, and for an event in Syria running as a candidate for inclusion in 2014.

“Our championship has been in sharp decline in recent years and requires urgent remedial action to ensure its survival and strong future,” said Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, organisers of the Dubai International Rally, taking place over UAE National Day Weekend from 30 November to 1 December.

“Over the last year, I have tasked my team to research our needs and come up with a new strategic approach to breathe life back into our only FIA championship in the region.Subject to FIA Rally Commission and World Motor Sport approval, we will be implementing new initiatives next season which are aimed at increasing the interest and awareness of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship going forward.”

The proposed new Group N championship, replacing the existing Group N cup category,will create a more competitive and stand out title race for competitorsin production cars who will still be able to competealongside drivers in morepowerful S2000 cars.

The reintroduction of the FIA Middle East Championship for Young Drivers, open for competitors born after 1 November, 1987, is designed to attract a new generation of talent and give greater recognition to the region’s young drivers.

The FIA Middle East Championship for 2WD vehicles will similarly recognise and encourage competitors with 2WD cars to compete in their own separate championship.

One of the most exciting developments will be the arrival in the Middle East championship of of the T3 class of FIA Cross Country homologated vehicles, including 2WD and 4WD buggiesup to 2000cc, some examples of which have been designed and built in the UAE.

“They will make championship rallying much more accessible for many people because of the cost, and buggies will be especially attractive to young drivers,” said Sulayem. Drivers competing in this category will be able to contest each round of the largely desert stages championship, with the exception of the Rally of Lebanon which is run on tarmac.

In another move to reverse the trend of falling entries in recent years, the homologation period of some older rally cars is being extended, giving a new lease of life to vehicles – and their drivers – which fell out of the series but can now continue until 2016.

In the final part of Sulayem’s plan to revive the championship, an application has been made for funding from the FIA Institute to cover the cost of a sophisticated SafetyTracking System for each of the six rounds of the regional series.

This will feature a strict mechanism to identify short cutting during desert rallies, and impose realistic penalties which will still allow competitors who stray off line to remain in contention.

Proposed 2013 FIA Middle East Rally Championship calendar:

Qatar International Rally 25-26 January 2013

Kuwait International Rally 2123 March 2013

Jordan Rally 2325 May 2013

Rally of Lebanon 68 September 2013

Syrian International Rally* 35 October 2013

Cyprus Rally 13November 2013

Dubai International Rally 24 December 2013