Tag Archives: FIA Middle East Rally Championship


Mohammed Al Sahlawi in action. The young Emirati expects a tough test in Jordan.
Mohammed Al Sahlawi in action. The young Emirati expects a tough test in Jordan.


Abu Dhabi, 30 April, 2013:  Mohammed Al Sahlawi and Mohammed Al Mutawaa, two young Emirati drivers launched into this year’s FIA Middle East Rally Championship by Abu Dhabi Racing, are ready for their toughest test so far when Jordan stages the regional series’ third round next week. 

Driving a pair of identical Citroen DS3 R3 2WDs, Al Sahlawi and Al Mutawaa make their Jordan Rally debuts from 11-13 May and the pair are aware they must treat the event with extra caution as they aim to continue their rallying education over some of the region’s most demanding special stages. 

“It’s going to be a tough rally because it’s on the side of a mountain with tight roads,” said Sahlawi, who is partnered by Irish co-driver Allan Harryman. “It’s completely different terrain to Qatar and Kuwait; a totally new experience for us. I know from talking to Allan and other drivers that a single mistake can put you out of contention. My target is to avoid any mistakes, finish the rally and learn as much as I can.

“At the moment I’m working on simplifying my pace notes. They were too detailed and getting me confused. I need to simplify them so that I can react better when I hear them.” 

Abu Dhabi Racing team-mate Al Mutawaa, who is accompanied by another experienced co-driver in Stephen McAuley, said: “Everyone tells me that this is going to be a much more difficult rally than Qatar and Kuwait because you only have a small margin for error. 

“If you make a mistake in the other desert rallies you can go wide and still be OK. In Jordan there’s not much of a run-off area, so if you make a mistake you could hit a wall or go off the side of the mountain. This will be my first time in a rally like this so it’s better to take it easy to begin with.”

After the first two rounds, Al Sahlawi leads from Al Mutawaa in both the two-wheel drive and young driver categories which are new to the Middle East Rally Championship this season. 

In preparation for another big physical test in Jordan, both have been putting in a lot of extra hours in the gym. 

“Towards the end of the Kuwait rally, I was starting to lose concentration because I was getting tired, so I’ve been working on improving my fitness,” said Al Sahlawi. “Mohammed and I also started feeling some pain in our lower backs because we spend such a long time sitting down and taking multiple impacts. We’ve been doing work to strengthen our backs and upper bodies so we’re better prepared physically to handle the pressure. 

“Most people underestimate how physically demanding rally driving can be. If you don’t prepare properly, you can get tired and your brain is less alert. When that happens you don’t hear the pace notes being called out so clearly and mistakes can creep in.”

After a ceremonial start in Amman on 9 May, the main action in the Jordan Rally will again be centred around the Jordan Valley, close to the Dead Sea, with the route certain to feature numerous stages used when the country hosted the World Rally Championship in 2008, 2010 and 2011.


Sulayem - Todt


Todt commends Sulayem’s regional initiatives after attending 22-country assembly in Doha

Doha, Qatar, 5 February, 2013:  FIA President Jean Todt said today that he is highly impressed by the work being done to drive motor sport to a new level in the Middle East and North Africa.

The head of motor sport’s world governing body attended Monday’s assembly in Doha of MENA’s 22 national motor sport authorities at the invitation of FIA Vice President, Dr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

Todt will now study two reports commissioned by Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, and presented during the meeting.

One of the reports delivered a six-point plan aimed at increasing the region’s total number of competitors, officials and volunteers, and the number of motorsports events, by 20 % by 2015.

The other, based on an intensive study of volunteers working at the UAE’s top motor sport events in 2012, made recommendations to help organisers worldwide provide better protection for marshals and officials from the risk of dehydration.

Todt, who also attended today’s meeting in Doha of the Arab Council of Touring and Automobile Clubs, said: “It is clear that a lot of development has happened in this region, and it offers very strong potential for the future, growing from the base of rallying, with road safety a very important part of that mix.”

“These were two intense and very fruitful meetings, and I was very impressed with the enthusiasm of the members. The solidarity and friendship that was displayed made me proud, as the FIA President, that our main assets are human and  team work.”

The Doha assembly of the 22 national motor sport authorities now united within the FIA’s Middle East and North Africa region in particular highlighted significant progress made in recent years in regional motor sport governance.

Until recently, the sport’s only regional forum was a meeting of the six or seven organisers of FIA Middle East Rally Championship events to discuss rally regulations.

The establishment of the FIA’s MENA region in 2011, a development driven by Sulayem, effectively brought 22 national sporting authorities together to work towards common goals.

The Doha assembly was attended by senior officials from each of these countries, namely

Algeria, Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE and Yemen.


Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi with FIA Vice President Dr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem and H.E.Faisal Al Ali


Dubai, UAE, 24 January, 2013:  Dr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem says the five-car challenge by Abu Dhabi Racing in the 2013 FIA Middle East Rally Championship which gets under way in Qatar tomorrow can help revive the regional series.

Sulayem sees the Qatar International Rally as the starting point in a new era for the Middle East series, which this year includes three new parallel championships – for Group N production cars, young drivers, and 2WD vehicles – as well as a T3 category for 2WD and 4WD buggies.

After convincing the World Motorsport Council to restructure the championship in order to rebuild its fading popularity, he believes the presence of five Emirati drivers in the Abu Dhabi Racing team this season can boost efforts to attract more young Arab talent.

“This is a very positive development for UAE motor sport, and for the Middle East Rally Championship,” said Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, who will be attending the Qatar International Rally, the first of the six-round 2013 series.


“One of the main ideas behind Abu Dhabi Racing is to create more opportunities for young Emiratis to compete in international motor sport events, and this reinforces what we are doing in re-shaping the championship.

“With five Emirati drivers and the most professional back-up team we have seen in the Middle East, it can only help to raise the profile of the championship, attract the attention of other young Arab drivers, and help to bring in the extra sponsors rallying needs to get back to where it was.”

The Abu Dhabi Racing challenge is led by Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi , supported by Majid Al Shamsi and Badr Al Jabri who contest the new Group N title race, and Mohammed Al Mutawaa and Mohammed Abdullah Hussain Al-Sahlawi in the 2WD championship.

Starting at 8am tomorrow,  the Qatar International Rally incorporates a sophisticated new tracking system designed to eliminate route deviations.

This was tested successfully during last month’s Dubai International Rally and will be used throughout this year’s Middle East Championship.

Through tracking devices fitted onto rally cars, it shows when competitors stray off line by more than the ten-metre legal limit, so that rally organisers can impose time penalties.

The new upgraded system has been developed to ensure a fairer level of competition, with realistic penalties now replacing the harsher ones of recent years to allow those who stray off line to remain in contention


Mikko Hirvonen & Sébastien Loeb & Dani Sordo


Abu Dhabi, UAE, 20 January, 2013: Abu Dhabi’s new partnership with eight-time World Rally Championship (WRC) manufacturers winners, Citroën Racing, is off to a flying start after another historic win for Sebastien Loeb in the Monte Carlo Rally.

Loeb’s seventh Monte Carlo win alongside co-driver Daniel Elena was confirmed when the final two stages of the event on Saturday night were cancelled for safety reasons as huge numbers of spectators brought the narrow roads to gridlock.

This followed a series of dramatic incidents in the mountains above Monaco when three of the top seven on the leaderboard, Evgeny Novikov, Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hanninen crashed out of the rally, which was run through a combination of snow, ice and slush.

Loeb won by 1min 39.9sec from Frenchman Sebastien Ogier to equal Tommi Mäkinen’s record of four consecutive Monte Carlo triumphs. Spain’s Dani Sordo, driving in Al Qassimi’s Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team DS3 WRC, finished third, with Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen fourth in their Citroën Total Abu Dhabi car.

“I had to carve a line through a thick layer of slush, and we were aquaplaning all the time,” said Loeb. “You couldn’t go any faster than 30kph on the straight sections, otherwise you lose the car completely and you go off!”

Following the first of 13 rounds in this year’s World Rally Championship, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team already leads the manufacturers’ standings and will hope to build on its advantage when round two unfolds in Sweden from February 7-10.

With the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi returning to WRC action in Sweden, the Emirati will first spearhead a five-car Abu Dhabi Racing assault in this weekend’s Qatar International Rally, the opening round of the seven-event FIA Middle East Rally Championship.


Citroen DS3 WRC


Sheikh Khalid sees new era for UAE capital in world rallying as Loeb aims to seal another Monte Carlo triumph

Abu Dhabi, UAE, 15 January, 2013: Abu Dhabi’s three-year partnership with eight-time World Rally Championship (WRC) manufacturers winners, Citroën Racing, begins in earnest this week as French ace Sebastien Loeb launches his bid for a seventh victory in the legendary Monte Carlo Rally, the opening round of the 13-event season.

Loeb’s participation marks the start of a momentous first season for the recently-established Abu Dhabi Racing (ADR), which has created the UAE capital’s new partnership with Citroen on the WRC stage as part of a concentrated programme designed to reinforce the emirate’s global motorsport stature.

The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is central to the initiative, both as ADR Chairman and as the main driver in Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team. In addition to running a nine-event WRC campaign, Al Qassimi will also spearhead a five-car assault on the FIA Middle East Rally Championship which starts later this month in Qatar.

While Al Qassimi must wait for February’s Rally Sweden to make his long-awaited WRC return, Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena, backed by flying Finn Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, will pilot Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s debut through the treacherous snow and ice-coated roads of Monte Carlo’s winter.

With Hirvonen contesting all 13 nominated championship events, the Monte Carlo Rally represents one of only four WRC appearances this season by Loeb, who has retired from full-time competitive rallying after winning nine consecutive WRC drivers’ titles. He will alternate in the second DS3 WRC this season with Spain’s Dani Sordo. In the season opener, Sordo and co-driver Carlos del Barrio will chase points for Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT – the second team created by the new ADR- Citroën Racing partnership – in another DS3 WRC.

With Al Qassimi taking the wheel of a fourth DS3 WRC in Sweden, he will be following this week’s Monte Carlo event with enormous interest and expectation.

“We see this as the start of a new era for Abu Dhabi in world rallying and I’m very excited by what lies ahead,” said Al Qassimi. “I’m very happy to be getting the chance to return to action in the WRC but the bigger picture is that this is a unique opportunity to carry the Abu Dhabi brand to a worldwide audience.

“The emirate is already well known as one of the world’s top venues for Formula 1 racing and for other events held at Yas Marina Circuit. Now we have linked up with the most successful works team in WRC history and opened up another exciting avenue for UAE motorsport and Emirati drivers.”

In the first test for the three new Abu-Dhabi-branded Citroen DS3 WRCs, the Monte Carlo Rally gets under way from Valence tomorrow with four special stages. Ice and snow are expected to play a big part, making tyre choice critical en route to the finish on Saturday. In total there are 465km of timed stages and no pair is better prepared for the challenge than Loeb and Elena, who begin their ‘testimonial’ year with one of their favourite rallies, ten years after their debut Monte Carlo win.

“They’ve had an amazing run of success and it would give us a wonderful start to the season if they could take an Abu Dhabi-branded car to victory on what looks like being their final Monte Carlo appearance,” said Sheikh Khalid.


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