Abu Dhabi Racing (ADR) has challenged the FIA International Court of Appeal’s (ICA) decision to strip Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi of his Dubai International Rally and Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) titles by petitioning the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The challenge was mounted on January 1 with ADR’s legal consultant Saleh Alobeidli filing an appeal with the CAS contending that the ICA’s decision was without basis and that Sheikh Khalid had not violated any provisions of the MERC rules and regulations.
The dispute revolves around Sheikh Khalid’s victory at the last round of the MERC, the Dubai International Rally, on November 29 last year where he beat Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah by the smallest margin (0.03sec) in the history of the championship.
With the victory, Sheikh Khalid won both the Dubai and regional championship titles, beating Al Attiyah to the crown by a mere one point.
However, Al Attiyah challenged the Dubai rally results, complaining to the stewards that the ADR driver had infringed on the rules by ‘cutting corners’ during his winning run.
After examining the complaint, the stewards rejected Al Attiyah’s contention and declared Sheikh Khalid Dubai rally winner.
On December 5, a massive row broke out after the ICA stripped Sheikh Khalid of both his titles.
In what was seen as a controversial decision, a three-member ICA panel ruled in favour of Al Attiyah’s protest appeal, which was filed on December 2 by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation on behalf of the Qatari driver.
The three-member panel was presided over by Jan Stovicek (Czech Republic) and included Philippe Roberti de Winghe (Belgium) and Felipe Zeraik (Brazil).
This panel met at the St Regis hotel in Doha on December 4 and issued the following ruling:
– Decided to set aside the decision n°1 of the Stewards of the 2014 Dubai International Rally;
– Declared that Abu Dhabi Racing Team’s car n°2 [Sheikh Khalid] committed a breach of article 14.2 of the 2014 FIA Regional Rally Regulations;
– Decided to impose a penalty of 30 seconds on the Abu Dhabi Racing Team’s car n°2.
But the controversy does not end here. What is now being questioned by many is the manner of and the place where the panel met and issued its decision.
Al Attiyah is a Qatar citizen and hence questions of conflict of interest were raised by some quarters sympathetic to Sheikh Khalid’s cause as the ICA had held its meeting in Doha instead of at its usual place in Paris.
ADR legal consultant Alobeidli said: “We were surprised by the decision of the ICA that contradicted the stewards’ decision which was about a pure technical dispute.
“It is rare for the stewards’ decision to be overruled. Furthermore, as per FIA rules the ICA does not have jurisdiction over judgments rendered by the stewards without the consent of all the parties involved, which was not the case here.
“Therefore, it’s natural for us to take this matter to a higher level of justice and therefore appeal the decision at the CAS, the world’s top sports court [for arbitration].”
The CAS is yet to set a date for hearing the case.
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