Nasser Al-Attiyah drives Ford Fiesta S2000 in 2010 Qtel Qatar Rally

Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, the defending FIA Middle East Rally Champion, will kick start his challenge for a seventh regional title in eight years at the wheel of a new M-Sport-built Ford Fiesta S2000 in the 2010 Qtel Qatar International Rally.

The car is currently being built at Cockermouth in England by M-Sport mechanics, in conjunction with staff from Autotek Motorsport. Ken Skidmore’s Autotek team will run the car during the 2010 regional championship season, starting with the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation-run (QMMF) event on January 21st-23rd.

Doha-based Al-Attiyah is currently challenging for outright victory in the 2010 Dakar Rally in South America with the factory Volkwagen team and will team up with his usual Italian special stage co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini for the Qatar Rally challenge. He will be bidding for an eighth successive victory in his home event.

The start of the new programme with the Ford Fiesta marks the eighth season that Al-Attiyah has worked with Autotek Motorsport – a tie-up that has already netted six regional rally titles and the FIA Production World Rally Championship title on one occasion. “We started with Nasser in 2003 with the Subaru WRC car and ran Subaru Group N programmes between 2004 and 2009,” said Skidmore.

The British team will also run three Qatar Rally Team Subaru Imprezas on behalf of the QMMF. These three cars will be driven by last year’s championship runner-up, Misfer Al-Marri, Khalid Al-Suwaidi and Mubarak Al-Hajri. Al-Suwaidi again teams up with British co-driver Nicky Beech and Adel Hussein partners Al-Hajri.

But Al-Marri will team up with Italian co-driver Nicola Arena for the first time following British co-driver Chris Patterson’s move to another motor sport programme. Arena has been a regular competitor on the regional scene for several years and achieved much success alongside Jordan’s Amjad Farrah in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. He also finished second overall in last year’s Jordan Rally, alongside the Lebanese driver Roger Feghali.

The QMMF is hopeful of attracting the strongest entry for several years to the traditional opening round of the Middle East’s premier motor sport series, which was unanimously voted the ‘best rally of the season’ by competitors and members of the media in 2009.

“Our team is putting the finishing touches to the route and the format now,” enthused Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, President of the QMMF. “We are hoping to attract several new names to the championship this year and the increased popularity of the S2000 category is sure to boost the interest factor. Rallying in the Middle East is no longer just the domain of the four-wheel drive Group N cars.”

The QMMF is offering generous concessions and an assistance package to international entrants. Teams will be offered six nights’ free accommodation (room and breakfast) in one twin-bedded room for driver and co-driver. Crews will be able to check in on January 18th at noon and leave at noon on January 23rd.

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