The Emirati driver Khalifa Al Motaiwi has announced he will return to cross-country rallying this season, driving for Mini All4 Racing.
The Dubai-based driver, who won the FIA World Cup championship in 2004, has been absent from the international off-road scene for eight years but, at a news conference in Lebanon, he confirmed his renewed partnership with the former two-time Dakar-winning co-driver Andreas Schulz and his renewed association with Sven Quandt's X-raid team.
Al Motaiwi's Mini All4 Racing will run under the Fazza Rally Team banner, thanks to the support of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed.
"I have been in training over the previous few months to get myself ready as best I can," said Al Motaiwi. "I am delighted to have Andreas back on board with me. I chose Lebanon to announce my programme because of the country's history and knowledge of motorsport." He confirmed his 2012 off-road programme will begin with the Italian Baja running March 15-18 and include the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge at the end of March.
Other events the team plans to compete at include the new Sealine Cross-Country Rally in Qatar in April, May's Tunisia Rally, the Baja Spain, Baja Poland, the Egypt Rally and the Baja Portalegre in Portugal at the start of November.
Al Motaiwi is also contemplating taking part in the 2013 Dakar Rally.
"I am not building my expectations too high at this stage," Al Motaiwi said.
"It is a long time since I took part at the top level, and I will need to get back into everything before we start looking for top results."
Al Motaiwi was one of the leading off-road stars in the world at the start of this century and was also part of the Victory Rally Team that took the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (Merc) by storm in the 1990s. He clinched two Merc wins in his early career and had numerous top-five finishes in rounds of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
Tariq Al Warshaw, the experienced Emirati, will work as Al Motaiwi's team co-ordinator and liaison with the X-raid team, which clinched outright victory in this year's Dakar Rally with Mini All4 Racing.