DUBAI // Nasser al Attiyah romped to victory in yesterday's Dubai International Rally to seal his sixth consecutive Middle East Rally Championship [MERC]. The Qatari - who has now topped the Dubai podium for five consecutive years - sewed up the win with little difficulty, finishing 2mins 38secs ahead of the UAE's Sheikh Abdullah al Qassimi, the brother of BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Khalid.
Unbeaten in this year's series, al Attiyah finished on 50 points, seven ahead of compatriot Misfer al Marri, who finished third in this weekend's rally. "I feel great," said al Attiyah. "The year was hard. We competed in only five races, so I'm happy to have won the championship for a sixth time. I had a few problems on day one, but we had a good strategy and won the race." The UAE's Rashid al Ketbi finished sixth, while Lebanese youngster Nicholai Georgiou was 11th.
Georgiou's result means he has secured a place in next season's Pirelli Star Driver programme, a six-event series which runs alongside World Rally Championship fixtures. With this year's Dubai rally the 25th staging of the UAE's oldest motorsport event, Mohammed ben Sulayem, the president of Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE [ATCUAE], countered claims their planning had been impacted by ATCUAE's heavy involvement in last month's Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix.
"Yes and no. We moved the Desert Challenge to March [to not clash with the F1], but the most important thing is that the routes for the Dubai Rally were decided six months ago," he said. "The core of the event was set long before the F1. We have been very busy in the past few weeks, but we always are before the event." Ben Sulayem is also a vice- president of the FIA. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org