Oman In­ter­na­tional Rally re­turns to MERC cal­en­dar in Fe­bru­ary

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

Mus­cat - The Oman In­ter­na­tional Rally makes a wel­come re­turn to the FIA Mid­dle East Rally Cham­pi­onship (MERC) cal­en­dar for the first time since 2015 from Fe­bru­ary 6-8.

Or­gan­ised by the Oman Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion (OAA), the spe­cial stage rally has been one of the most pop­u­lar rounds of the re­gional se­ries since its in­cep­tion in 1984. The event of­fers some of the finest ral­ly­ing ter­rain in the Mid­dle East, with com­peti­tors able to en­joy fast, smooth and flow­ing gravel roads through the Ha­jar moun­tains.

The Oman event moves from its for­mer date to­wards the end of the sea­son to host the open­ing round of the MERC for the first time. Teams then heads off to Qatar, Le­banon and Jor­dan be­fore the se­ries con­cludes in Cyprus at the start of Oc­to­ber.

It will be a count­ing round for the MERC, MERC 2, MERC 3 and MERC Ju­nior Cham­pi­onship for Driv­ers.

Crews will tackle a short spe­cial stage (15.45hrs) af­ter the cer­e­mo­nial start (15.00hrs) at the head­quar­ters of OAA on Thurs­day, Fe­bru­ary 6 and two fur­ther legs of six stages apiece on Fe­bru­ary 7 and 8. There will be 201 com­pet­i­tive kilo­me­tres in a com­pact route of 532.40km.

The event is be­ing or­gan­ised un­der the chair­man­ship of Brig (re­tired) Salim Ali al Maskry with An­war Ali Soomar work­ing as Rally Di­rec­tor and Ahmed Ab­dul­lah al Zad­jali ap­pointed as Clerk of the Course.

First held as a non-cham­pi­onship event in 1979 - when the Swedish duo of Harri Kall­ström and Claes Bill­stam were vic­to­ri­ous in a Dat­sun 160 J – the event has seen many well known names grace its en­try lists. For­mer win­ners in­clude Swedish le­gend Björn Waldegård (1988), lo­cal hero Tony Ge­or­giou (1992) and Qatar’s Saeed Al-Ha­jri (1983, 1984 and 1985).

But the two dom­i­nant forces over the years have been the UAE’s Mo­hammed Ben Su­layem and Qatar’s de­fend­ing re­gional cham­pion Nasser Saleh al At­tiyah. Ben Su­layem se­cured seven vic­to­ries be­tween 1986 and 1998 and At­tiyah cur­rently has five vic­to­ries to his name – 2003-2006 and 2015. The event was not held be­tween 2008 and 2013 and since the Qatari’s last win with Matthieu Baumel in a Ford Fi­esta RRC.

En­tries close on Tues­day, Jan­uary 28.

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion, con­tact the Oman Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion, PO Box 2874, CPO Seeb 111, Sul­tanate of Oman, Tel: + 968 245 10239, Email: [email protected]­nauto.org

Visit www.oma­nauto.org for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion

Ab­dul­lah al Rawahi is a reg­u­lar com­peti­tor in the MERC for Oman

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