By Sports Reporter/Lusail
The Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally roared into life with a fanfare ceremonial start outside Souq Al-Medina on The Pearl-Qatar yesterday evening.
A large crowd of shoppers, tourists and local residents assembled in the Plaza Al-Hambra to witness QMMF President Abdulrahman al-Mannai and Manateq’s CEO Fahad Rashed al-Kaabi joined by HE Salah bin Ghanembin Nasser al-Ali, Minister of Culture and Sports, to flag off 22 FIA cars, 13 national crews and competitors from 20 nations at the start of the first round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
Prior to the podium start, the Qatari trio of Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah, Adel Abdulla and Ahmed al-Kuwari, defending FIA World Cup champion Jakub Przygonski, Camelia Liparoti, Vladimir Vasilyev and Reinaldo Varela attended the official pre-event press conference on the start podium.
Rally officials also laid on an impressive display of motorcycles in the Plaza that attracted a lot of interest before the start formalities.
Al-Attiyah is chasing a sixth victory in his home FIA event in eight years. He said: “It’s fantastic to be here with all my closest rivals starting another season of competition. We know each other very well and now is the time for the games to start and the fight to begin.”
Przygonski, who won the Qatar event with his MINI John Cooper Works Rally in 2018, added: “I know it will not be easy. but I am sorry to say in front of all the local fans that I am here to beat Nasser. I have a new co-driver and Timo and I want to start the season with as good a result as we can.”
Liparoti is not phased by being the only woman on the entry list. The Italian said: “I have raced here two times before and, yes, I have switched from a quad to a T3, but I still have four wheels and a steering wheel instead of handle bars. It’s great to be competing against such a strong field of drivers. I actually trained in the dunes at Sealine before the Dakar and enjoyed it very much.”
Ahmed al-Kuwari switched from motorcycles to race a T3 with support from the QMMF and the Qatari is eager to start his new challenge.
“People ask me why I switched from bikes to cars and I say I think there is more of a future to progress in this discipline. Reinaldo (Varela) won the Dakar (SxS) and Adel (Abdulla) is a former T2 World Champion, so I know it will not be easy, and it’s great to be here alongside Nasser, a Dakar winner, and Jakub (Przygonski), the defending World Champion.”
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