Wed, 29 Jul, 2015, 11:52
The 38th edition of Rally of Lebanon has attracted numerous Arab and International figures that will tackle its tarmac stages that make it a standout event on the Middle East Rally Championship calendar.
Before we delve into the detail of every participation, it is worth mentioning that Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (Ford Fiesta RRC) confirmed to the Rally of Lebanon media committee that he will miss the event due to lack of funding, and that he is still waiting for the approval of Qatar’s Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Al-Kuwari, who holds fourth place in the Middle East Rally Championship standings with 30 points, partakes in the WRC 2 alongside co-driver Marshall Clark and currently is third in the championship standings with 57 points in 4 participations that included a victory in Argentina.
There are also doubts regarding Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi, while the Emiratis confirmed their absence, with Khaled Al Qassimi and all members of the Abu Dhabi Racing team set to miss the event.
Nasser Al-Attiyah, who already confirmed his participation, will be joined by his younger brother Khalifa who kicked off his career at the start of the year with a third-place finish in the 39th Qatar International Rally.
Whoever is following Khalifa’s progress in the regional championship should be aware that the driver switched from the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X that he drove last year to a Ford Fiesta RRC, but the Qatari hasn’t changed his experienced co-driver Adel Hussein.
After completing his home rally, Khalifa headed for the 23rd Kuwait International Rally, in which he finished 10th after facing many problems. In the Shiraz Rally, he finished fifth overall, and thus now has 26 points and sits in fifth place in the championship.
Another man from Qatar is Khalid Al-Suwaidi, who returned to the regional championship last year after a one-and-a-half year absence, and he finished fifth in his home rally onboard his Ford Fiesta RRC, before taking a similar result in Kuwait, and a fourth place finish in Shiraz Rally, to accumulate 32 points and rank third in the championship.
It is likely that the young Rashed Al-Naimi, who is still learning from his first full Middle Easy appearance, will take part in Rally of Lebanon. Al-Naimi has faced many issues with his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, retiring from the Qatar International Rally due to a fuel leak, and getting disqualified in the Kuwait International Rally after receiving illegal help. However, things took a turn for the better in Shiraz Rally when Rashed finished seventh alongside Italy’s Nicolas Arena.
Al-Naimi has 6 points in the regional championship and is 11th overall in the championship standings; he’s also fourth in the Group N class with 18 points.
From Kuwait, there will be Salah Bin Eidan alongside co-driver Vili Oslaj in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Bin Eidan decided to abandon the Ford Fiesta R5 he drove last year in order to compete in Group N. There is no doubt that it was a good decision as he finished fourth, seventh and sixth in Qatar, Kuwait and Shiraz rallies respectively to collect 75 points and lead Group N, while he shares fifth in the overall standings with Khalifa Al-Attiyah.
Bin Eidan forms a hindrance to Meshari Al Thafiri’s hopes, the latter who clinched the Group N title during the last couple of years. Al Thafiri has had many problems onboard his Evo X this year, including radiator damage in Kuwait and an overheating engine in Shiraz, which lead to his retirement from both events. He also missed the Qatar International Rally due to personal reasons. What distinguishes Al Thafiri from his fellow Arab racers is the fact he took part in the Spring Rally and Jezzine Rally in order to gain more experience on tarmac stages ahead of Rally of Lebanon.
Germany’s Edith Weiss and Greek co-driver Vicky Psaraki (Evo IX) have enjoyed a strong season so far, finishing eighth at the Qatar International Rally, and taking a similar result in Kuwait amid 11 finishers. However, Weiss wasn’t allowed to race in Shiraz due to a seat belt that doesn’t comply with the regulations.
Weiss confirmed to the Rally of Lebanon media committee that she will be leasing a car from the Motortune Racing team, which is run by Roger Feghali, for Rally of Lebanon, in which she finished seventh in Group N last year and 17th overall, in addition to earning the Ladies Cup.
Edith Weiss, who will be contesting Rally of Lebanon this year for the 8th time, has collected 33 points in the regional championship so far and is second in Group N, behind Bin Eidan.
Registration for the 38th Rally of Lebanon closes on August 21, with drivers and co-drivers to be announced at a later date. The rally will consist of 13 special stages that cover 244.01 kilometers of the 794.63-kilometer total distance.
Middle East Rally Championship standings after Round 3:
1- Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah – 75 points
2- Khalid Al-Qassimi - 51
3- Khaled Al-Suwaidi - 32
4- Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari - 30
5- Salah Bin Eidan - 26
- Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah - 26
7- Yazeed Al-Rajhi - 15
8- Abdullah Al-Kuwari - 14
9- Ali Mesgarha - 8
- Edith Weiss - 8
11- Rashed Al-Naimi - 6
12- Mansoor Belhelei - 2
Middle East Rally Championship Group N standings after Round 3:
1- Salah Bin Eidan - 75 points
2- Edith Weiss - 33
3- Rashed Al-Naimi -18
- Ali Mesgarha - 18