Dubai Rally flagged off by Sheikh Majed

His Highness Sheikh Majed Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum this evening officially signalled the beginning of the Dubai International Rally by flagging off drivers from the start ramp set amidst the sprawling Boulevard in Downtown Burj Dubai.

The 31st edition of the Dubai International Rally, the final round of the 2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, rounds off the rallying season for the region, with the high point being an expected thrilling finale between the top two contenders for this year’s MERC title and the Pirelli Star Driver shoot-out for the Middle East.

Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Majed Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Dubai International Rally also sees the only all-female team in Jordan’s Abir Batikhi, the only Arab woman driver to have participated in the World Rally Championship, and co-driven by the UAE’s Rabab Al Tajir.

Speaking at the pre-event media briefing earlier in the day, Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who is also FIA Vice President, said: “First I want to thank the Government of Dubai and HH Sheikh Majed for their unflinching support for over 30 years, making it possible for the Dubai International Rally to be recognized as one of the top prizes in the region.

“I also wish to thank all our partners, those that have been with us for over the years and Emaar, a new entrant, for renewing their confidence in this signature event at a rather difficult time for everyone worldwide.

Ahmad Al Matrooshi, Managing Director – UAE, Emaar Properties, said: “The 3.5 km long Emaar Boulevard is a testament to downtown urban culture. Downtown Burj Dubai offers a lifestyle destination set in a distinct mix of traditional and modern architecture in the heart of Dubai.”

Speaking further, Sulayem said the presence of some of the most experienced and seasoned drivers from the region promises to make this an exciting year-end event, particularly the fact that just three points separate the top two contenders – Nasser Al Attiyah and Misfer Al Marri. “It’s too close to call, both a great drivers and competitors; the title is still wide open,” he added.

“Moreover, Abir and Rabab’s participation is a big opportunity for Arab women in the region to show that they play an equally big role in society here – including in motor sports,” Sulayem said of the only all-female team in the event.

Meanwhile, Lebanese driver Nicholai Georgiou and Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thafiri are expected to go flat out to determine the destiny of this year’s Pirelli Star Driver.

The driver who amasses the most points from the two days at the final round of the regional rally series will join other regional heat winners from around the world in six rounds of next year’s FIA World Rally Championship.

Georgiou won the West Zone of the Pirelli Star Driver competition in Syria, while Al-Thafiri qualified for the regional final through the Gulf zone event in Kuwait back in March.

Ahmed Al-Mansoori was a third qualifier for the Dubai shoot-out, but the Team Abu Dhabi Junior driver will not take part in the regional finale.

As the only FIA-authorised organisation in the UAE, the ATCUAE seeks local support from organisations and departments. To that end, apart from Emaar, this edition of the rally has also garnered support from The Address Hotels + Resorts, Emarat, Oasis and Explorer. The government support comes from Dubai Ports & Dubai Customs, Dubai Police, Immigration, Road and Transport Authority, Ministry of Civil Defence. Ministry of Youth and Culture and Social Development also support the rally.

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