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Announced on the day of the start of the Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) Cyprus Rally was that this year’s Dubai International Rally (December 8th) will be run not as a MERC event, but as a candidate event for a proposed future Cross Country raid.  

Maybe last week’s Cyprus Rally was the final round of the 2016 MERC series.  

Dubai resident Mohammed bin Sulayem, president of the event, of the Emirates Motor Sport Federation (EMSF) and the first Arab to become a Vice President of the FIA, said: “We are proud to take the Dubai International Rally to a new level that befits the name of Dubai.  

“This move comes after sustained efforts over 37 years, during which the rally maintained its participation as a part of the Middle East Rally Championship.  

“Today it moves to a world level to be a part of international championships including rallies of Russia, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Portugal and Egypt.  The new move will add a new milestone achievement to the UAE Motorsport record.”
 
Following the cancellation of this year’s Oman Rally and the recent move to cancel next year’s Kuwat Rally, the move from an orthodox event to a cross country event is seen as a move to dismantle the long running MERC series, the effect of which is that Bin Sulayem’s personal record of 14 outright MERC titles may never be beaten.  

His nearest challenger is Nasser Al Attiyah, who this year won the MERC series for a 12th time.
 
- Martin Holmes     

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