Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah looks to take top honours at the Dubai International Rally and secures his sixth Middle East Rally Championship title.

Al Attiyah held on to the end despite huge pressure from UAE driver Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi, and fellow Qatar Misfer Al Marri.

Going into the final two stages, it was clear that last year’s epic battle between Al Attiyah and Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi would not be continuing with his brother Sheikh Abdullah taking over the driving seat this year.

However, consistency was the key in Sheikh Abdullah securing a second place finish and the feeling of achievement was plain to see on the faces of the duo, with co driver Steve Lancaster picking up eight points to finish third overall in the MERC co-drivers championship.

However, it was Rashid Al Ketbi who caused a stir with lightning quick times on every stage, bar one. Al Ketbi, who struggled to complete special stage one on Friday, when his brand new Skoda Fabia Super 2000 overheated, came back with a vengeance and posted the quickest times on every other stage.

It was not enough however for the Emirati twosome, Al Ketbi and co-driver, Khalid Alkendi, to make up for lost ground on day one. The car, which Al Ketbi hoped would help secure the Dubai title, was delivered just days before the rally. “Even though we lost time on the first stage, the car is fantastic and I am driving well,” Al Ketbi said.

Lebanese driver Nicholai Georgiou solidified his position on day two and secured himself a place in select group Pirelli Star Drivers’ programme.

His close contender, Kuwait’s Meshari Al Thafiri had to retire on day one following mechanical problems and despite starting day two was unable to make up for lost time.

Georgiou lost out on victory last year on a technicality to Cypriot Nicos Thomas, but the Lebanese youngster who has been the most improved driver in the region this season ensured that he got it right this time.

He 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.

Rally organiser, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of Automobile Tourism Club of UAE, who is also FIA Vice President said: “Nick Georgiou now joins the other winners from Europe, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region and will participate in six rounds of the World Rally Championship next year in Jordan, Portugal, Finland, Germany, France and Great Britain.”

The Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) received over 25 entries for the popular final round of the championship, set amidst the beautiful mountains of Hatta, 115 kilometres north of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The 2009 Dubai International Rally, the 31st edition of the event, has garnered support from Emaar, The Address Hotels + Resorts, Emarat, Oasis and Explorer. The government support for the event comes from Dubai Ports & Dubai Customs, Dubai Police, Immigration, Road and Transport Authority, Ministry of Civil Defense. Ministry of Youth and Culture and Social Development also support the rally.
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