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‘Variety can win back Arab drivers’

(KT Report) / 14 June 2012

If plan is approved, regional events will become more economical: Sulayem

DUBAI— A new proposal to boost motor rallying in this part of the world will be presented to the FIA World Motorsport Council in Paris on Friday by a governing body in the UAE.

Mohammed bin Sulayem believes the FIA Middle East Rally Championship can be given a major boost by a new proposal which is expected to be adopted by the FIA World Motorsport Council, a media release from his offices said.

Sulayem, president of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, has worked with his counterparts in South America, Africa and the Asia Pacific region to pave the way for a wider range of rally cars to be allowed into the FIA regional championships.

The proposal going before the World Motorsport Council calls for a relaxing of regulations to allow rally cars which have past their homologation date and are therefore barred from competing in FIA championships to be cleared for regional rallying.

This would see Group N and possibly Group A cars return to action in the Middle East, South America, Africa and the Asia Pacific.

At Sulayem’s instigation, the sport’s governing body is also being asked to allow entry to the regional championships for the T3 category of buggies.

Some of these have been developed in the UAE for cross country rallies, but they would also adapt well for desert events like the Dubai International Rally which form the biggest part of the FIA Middle East series.

If the plan is approved on Friday, regional rallying will effectively become more economical and the Middle East Championship could attract more Arab drivers after being hit by dwindling entries in recent years.

“Our aim is not only to bring back many of the Arab rally drivers who have been scared off by the rising cost of rallying, but also to attract a new generation of young drivers,” said Sulayem, who is the FIA Vice President for Sport.

“It’s been so disappointing to see entries for Middle East Championship events drop so significantly over the past few years and we need strong action to reverse this trend.” Earlier this year, Sulayem urged competitors from across the region to embrace the series and prevent it from becoming the forgotten arm of regional motor sport.

“I know there are some drivers who would welcome the chance to return to the championship if they could enter their old Group N or Group A cars,” he said. “At the same time, we could attract new young Arab drivers because the T3 buggies would be more within their reach.”

“Rallying was the start of motor sport in this part of the world back in the 1970s,” he added. “For 25 years or more there was nothing else. It has been the pillar of motor sport here for so long. It’s part of our culture, and we have to protect it.”


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