Ulsterman Michael Orr to partner Saudi driver in 2013
Al-Rajhi bids to add to his three previous MERC wins
Saudi Arabia’s motor sport ambassador and leading rally driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi is to make a return to a full programme of FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) events this season, starting with a full assault at next weekend’s Qatar International Rally.
Al-Rajhi finished third overall at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta S2000 in last autumn’s Jordan Rally with his regular Ulster co-driver Michael Orr, but a full attack at the MERC is a welcome return for the Saudi star after another impressive outing in Cyprus last November.
Al-Rajhi decided to graduate to the FIA World Rally Championship during the WRC round in Jordan Rally a few years ago and he has become a regular face on the international scene outside the Middle East over the last two years, in addition to taking part in several European rallies.
He and Orr will use an M-Sport-prepared Ford Fiesta RRC this season, the car in which the Riyadh driver finished his first full season in the FIA SWRC Championship in third position last year.
The break from regional rallying has made Al-Rajhi a more accomplished driver and that was clearly demonstrated by his stage times on the recent MERC rallies in Jordan and Cyprus.
“I stopped my career in the Middle East Championship and went to the WRC to develop myself and gain more experience and professionalism because, if you want to compete with the fast drivers, you have to participate in external championships and practice more,” said the Saudi. “In addition to that, the Middle East Championship doesn’t give the driver the same level of experience as the World Championship.
My participation in the Middle East will not prevent me from taking part n the World Championship with the S2000 car, which will have a new name this year – WRC2. We now have a new system of freedom where drivers can choose which rallies to participate in.”
The Qatar International Rally in being organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) and takes place on new stages to the north of Doha, with a new service park and a revised route. Action will take place on Friday, January 25th and Saturday, January 26th.
The FIA Middle East Rally Championship officially began in 1984 and only two Saudi drivers have managed to win the title in that time. Mamdouh Khayat won the series in 1992 and Abdullah Bakhashab was triumphant three years later.
Al-Rajhi has already won three MERC rallies and several other FIA events and will be determined to start his 2013 title challenge with a win in Qatar this weekend.
Press: Qatar Rally