Qatar’s Abdulaziz al-Kuwari slipped to second position yesterday in the 37th Dubai International Rally, the final round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC).
Al-Kuwari was quickest overall on four of the six stages, but he lost over two minutes on the fourth special and Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid al-Qassimi inherited a lead he held to the end of the day.
Al-Kuwari is now 1min 44.9sec behind Sheikh Khalid, while Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah al-Qassimi holds third.
Qatar ace Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah is not taking part in the Dubai International Rally as he has already wrapped up the MERC title.
The opening day of the event saw Emirati Mansour bin Jabr make a dramatic return to international rallying.
With support from the Bin Jabr Group, Mansour and fellow Emirati navigator Arif Yousef Mohammed held 11th overall and third in the Group N category after six timed gravel special stages in the UAE deserts.
Bin Jabr set the fastest time in the showroom category in the third stage in his Tok Sport-prepared Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X and is still hoping to challenge Lebanese overnight leader Nasib Nassar over the final day.
“I was out of the sport for seven years and have been away,” said bin Jabr. “A local rally in Sharjah was a warm up for me. It was a short rally, but it gave me back my feel. My co-driver and I are working better together on each stage.
“The first three stages today were fast and good for us. The car worked well and the team has bonded. We lost a little time off the track, but there was only 39 seconds between myself and Michel Saleh at the halfway point of the day. I just wanted to keep the same pace this afternoon and will up my speed tomorrow to push for the Group N win.”
Bin Jabr started well and held 10th overall and third in the Group N category behind Lebanon’s Nasib Nassar and veteran Michel Saleh after the opening 21.8km of the Zubaidah stage. He maintained his position through the longer 37.17km of the timed test at Al-Falaj and set the fastest time in the Group N category through Shawqa to maintain third behind Nassar and Saleh.
Action resumes with a further three timed gravel stages at Ekhaidir, Kadra and Mileiha today morning.
These will be repeated in the afternoon and precede the ceremonial finish, which will bring the 2015 FIA Middle East Rally Championship to a conclusion.
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