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Dubai rally hailed as fitting finale to Middle East Championship

Dubai: Two-time winner Shaikh Khalid Al Qasimi says this weekend’s Dubai International Rally provides a superb stage for the final round of the 2013 FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

Spearheading a five-car challenge by Abu Dhabi Racing in the final round of the regional series, Shaikh Khalid is full of praise for a route that had to be altered dramatically after last week’s heavy rain washed away some sections and left other sections under water.

“The stages are the best I’ve seen in the Middle East this year,” said the Emirati driver, who is looking to add to his back-to-back Dubai International Rally victories in 2005 and 2006, after completing his recce.

“They’re very clearly defined because they’ve been graded so well. In some of the other desert rallies, you can stray off the route and lose time because the land is very flat and you can’t make out the corners. But here you can see the angles into the corners. Everything is right.”

Partnered by British co-driver Scott Martin in his Abu Dhabi Citroen Total DS3, Shaikh Khalid is already assured of runners-up position in this year’s Middle East Championship, but he will settle for nothing less than a third victory in Dubai this weekend.

The 35th edition of the UAE’s longest running sports event forms another part of the learning curve for the four young Emirati drivers in the Abu Dhabi Racing line-up. One of them will secure the Middle East Championship 2WD and Junior crowns in Dubai, with Mohammad Al Sahlawi needing only to finish the rally in his Abu Dhabi Citroen DS3 R3 2WD to beat team-mate Mohammad Al Mutawa to both titles.

Bader Al Jabri still has a mathematical chance of taking the Middle East Group N title, but to do that he will need leader Mishari Al Thefiri of Kuwait and Qatar’s Abdullah Al Kuwari to encounter last round disasters. Majid Al Shamsi completes the team’s Dubai International Rally driver line-up at the wheel of an identical Abu Dhabi Racing Subaru N15.