Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi said the Kuwait International Rally that starts on Friday could produce a classic battle for supremacy between the Arab world's top drivers in what is arguably the strongest line-up in FIA Middle East Championship history.
The UAE star's Abu Dhabi Citroen Total World Rally Team DS3 is one of 10 powerful entries contesting the leading class in the second round of this year's regional series Friday and Saturday.
The reigning Middle East champion Nasser Al Attiyah and Al Qassimi are seen as the two most likely winners. But the Emirati driver thinks at least two other contenders, Qatar's Abdulaziz Al Kuwari and Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al Rajhi, could also mount serious challenges for victory.
"This could be the strongest-ever Middle East rally," Al Qassimi said. "We have 28 cars, one more than the World Rally Championship Rally of Mexico last week, and there's a lot of quality. Most people seem to be focusing on Nasser and myself, especially after we finished first and second in the first round in Qatar. I think there are four or five drivers who could win.
"Abdulaziz showed what he can do by winning the WRC2 title in Rally Mexico and Yazeed did the same in the previous round in Sweden. They are both fast and will be battling for every stage. They'll be hard to drop."
Partnered by Scott Martin, Al Qassimi says the size and depth of the Kuwait International Rally starting line-up augurs well for the future of the FIA Middle East series. He also hopes the emergence of Abu Dhabi Racing as a force in the championship will help to raise the profile of the series and attract more young Arab talent.
"What we're doing in Abu Dhabi is creating a lot of interest and helping to raise standards in the championship," he said. "We've started something and we're hoping it will open the door for others to follow."
Also part of the Abu Dhabi Racing driver line-up in Kuwait are Mohammed Al Sahlawi and Mohammed Al Mutawaa, who contest the new 2WD category in a pair of Citroen DS3 R3s.
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