Sheikh Abdullah al Qassimi kept alive his hopes of winning the Middle East Rally Championship with a second place in the Syrian Rally, which finished last night.
The Emirati driver came in behind Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah in his Mitsubishi Lancer car, but was able to beat Misfer Al-Marri, the championship leader, who could only finish third.
Al Qassimi was helped by Syria's Haitham Al-Yousefi retiring with radiator problems while in second place on the final stage, thus giving him an extra two points in the championship as he moved up the order one place to third.
The Sharjah-based driver is now 15 points behind Al-Marri with just the rallies in Cyprus and Dubai left of the championship. Realistically he will need to win both events, while hoping for misfortune to hit Al-Marri's challenge if he is to have any hope of lifting the title, with only a maximum of 20 points left to be won. Al-Attiyah dominated in Syria to run out a worthy winner, being fastest on nine of the 13 gravel stages as he finished 3mins 03.44.6secs ahead of al Qassimi.
He is only 10 points behind Al-Marri and was thrilled with his result. "This is a fantastic win for me," he said. "I have missed three rounds of the championship this season, but I still have a chance to win the title again now. "Misfer [Al-Marri] is doing what he has to do, but I will go into the last two rounds knowing that I have a great chance if I can win both rallies."
Abu Dhabi-based Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi saw his hopes in Syria end on Friday with engine failure and he is now 16 points adrift of the championship lead following his fourth retirement of the season.