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Former Middle East Rally Champion and WRC competitor, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, will lobby FIA decision makers in Spain this week in a bid to create a 'free zone' for rally and racing drivers in the Gulf, a move which he says will boost motor sport in the region at local and international level.

Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE, flew to Barcelona to attend the four-day FIA annual congress, and was determined to have an influence on the men who rule world motor sport, including FIA President Max Mosley

“I'll be meeting a lot of the top decision makers, and I want them to agree to lift the restriction which holds up drivers eager to compete outside their home country in the Gulf region,” said the 14-times former Middle East champion, who becomes the first UAE national to attend the annual assembly of motor sport's world governing body in an official capacity.

Current FIA regulations mean that drivers holding competition licences issued by their local motor sport clubs can take part only in rallies, or other motor sport events such as circuit races, in their home country. To be able to contest national events in other Gulf countries they must gain an international competitor's licence, which is awarded to drivers only after they have competed in a minimum of six local events.

Sulayem wants the FIA to lift the restriction and create a Gulf zone to allow drivers to contest national events in any of the Gulf countries once they have their local competitor's licence. A northern zone for Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Cyprus already exists.

He is being backed by the national motor sport clubs (ASNS) which officially represent the FIA in the Middle East and approved his recommendation at their annual meeting in Beirut in July.

“Our aim is to strengthen the Middle East Championship, and regional motor sport as a whole. We need to attract more drivers and make it easier for them to compete on a regional basis. Having a Gulf zone, instead of restrictions from country to country, will open up motor sport for more drivers once they get their local competitors' licence,” he said.

“They could compete in national events across the region and find it easier and quicker to get into the Middle East Championship and other international events.”

Sulayem took over as President of the new-look ATCUAE in April. The ATCUAE organises the UAE Desert Challenge, final round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup and the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship, as well as the Dubai and UAE International Rallies in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

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