x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

A stunning comeback is complete for Khalifa Al Mutaiwei

Emirati driver becomes second Arab to win Pharaohs Rally on return from hiatus.

The Dubai-based Khalifa Al Mutaiwei had been on an eight-year break from the sport. Courtesy NDP Publicity
The Dubai-based Khalifa Al Mutaiwei had been on an eight-year break from the sport. Courtesy NDP Publicity

CAIRO // Dubai's Khalifa Al Mutaiwei clinched the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies title by confirming outright victory in the Pharaohs International Cross-Country Rally in Cairo yesterday.

The win capped a glorious return to the sport for the Fazza Rally Team driver. Absent from international rallying since he won the title for the first time in 2004, Al Mutaiwei returned to the driving seat this season after a near eight-year absence and went on to win the title for the second time with his X-raid-built Mini All4 Racing.

The Emirati is only the second Arab driver in history to win the gruelling Pharaohs Rally – his good friend Saeed Al Hajri of Qatar won the event in a Porsche 959 in 1985 – after becoming the first Arab driver ever to win an FIA title back in 2004.

He is now the first Arab driver to win a major international, non-regional, championship on two occasions. Co-driver German co-driver Andreas Schulz also became the first co-driver to win the title for the third successive occasion.

"I drove like a 75-year-old man in the stage today," said Al Mutaiwei at the finish in Cairo. "I counted every stone just to make sure I made it safely to the finish. I am so happy. I cannot find the words to express my feelings right now.

"I want to thank His Royal Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, for his full support and backing. Without this my return would never have happened. I would also like to thank Andy, my driver, the X-raid team and all the members of my team and friends for their support."

Al Mutaiwei a began the final stage from fifth position on the road behind fifth stage winner Miroslav Zapletal, Aidyn Rakhinmbayev, Patrick Sireyjol and Jun Mitsuhashi after he dropped several minutes helping the stranded Sireyjol out of a sand hole on Friday.

His only title rival, Jean-Louis Schlesser, was excluded from the race for a technical infringement on Friday. "It was vital that the Emirati stayed out of trouble on the 425km special stage between Tibniya and Cairo, which was later shortened by race officials.

Al Mutaiwei duly held on to secure the fourth fastest time and clinch the FIA World Cup title.

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