Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi expresses disappointment at FIA ruling which saw him lose his Merc title
Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi won the Dubai Rally on November 29, and with it, the Middle East Rally Championship (Merc) seasonal points title when he finished 0.3 seconds ahead of his fierce rival, the nine-time Merc champion Nasser Al Attiyah of Qatar. It represented Sheikh Khalid’s second Merc crown – albeit only briefly.
Al Attiyah lodged a protest against Sheikh Khalid, claiming after the race that the winning car had violated regulations. His protest was dismissed by race stewards, who said Sheikh Khalid’s car had followed Merc rules, which require cars to remain within 10 metres of the course’s designated driving line.
The Qatari took his case to FIA’s International Court of Appeal (ICA), who set aside the decision and found Sheikh Khalid in breach, for which he was handed the prescribed 30-second penalty. As a result, Al Attiyah inherited both the Dubai International Rally and 2014 Merc titles.
Sheikh Khalid, who attended the appeal hearing in Doha on Thursday, said: “Obviously, I am very disappointed with the decision, but the ICA has the final call. I feel that the decision is not fair to me or to the team. As Abu Dhabi Racing, we really need to think about our commitment to the Middle East Rally Championship going forward.”
Sheikh Khalid’s lawyer, Zeeshan Dhar, disputed the decision and said Al Attiyah broke the same rule. “The ICA decision was based on a route deviation which is out of kilter with all applicable regulations ... There is no legal or rational basis for the ICA decision,” Dhar said. “Furthermore, we presented the ICA with clear and unequivocal evidence by way of video footage that [Al Attiyah] ... knowingly committed a more-egregious route deviation for which he was not penalised.”