Mohammed Ben Sulayem expects a growing number of Emirati drivers and riders to contribute to the record-breaking growth of the Emirates Desert Championship, which reaches the half way point in the 2014-15 season this weekend.
The third round of the national Baja rally series takes place on Friday morning, with defending champion Ahmed Al Fahim leading the cars class in his Polaris buggy, while fellow Emiratis Mohammed Al Balooshi and Humaid Al Mashgouni top the overall bikes and quads standings.
While they set the championship pace, a succession of other UAE competitors on two and four wheels have also embraced the series in its second season, and Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, is confident more Emriatis will follow.
“They obviously like the championship format of short course events which are exciting, very competitive, and are run over periods of two hours,” said Sulayem, Presidentof Emirates Motor Sport Federation.
“We’re expecting more of our experienced Emirati competitors to enter the championship, especially in the cars categories, and at the same time we’re confident the nature of the series will encourage a lot of other youngsters to be attracted as we progress.”
The championship is organised by the ATCUAE and the EMSF, with TAG Heuer Middle East as the official timekeeper and founding partner.
After the series reached 100 entries for the first time in this season’s first of six rounds, Round Two last month attracted set a new record with 135 drivers and riders.
With safety a priority, bike and quad entries for Round 3 have been restricted to 120.
Ahmad Al Maqoodi powered his way to a convincing cars victory in Round 2 in a Polaris buggy to announce his title ambitions, although eighth place still kept first round winner Al Fahim on top of the standings.
Overall bikes leader Al Balooshi followed up his first round victory with third place behind British rider Jake Shipton and Mohammed Jaffar to stay one point ahead of the second-placed Kuwaiti rider.
But competition is fierce and the title race could go all the way to the wire.
Al Balooshi is in good company in the 450cc class alongside Saeed Al Shenqiti, Rashed Abdulla, Sultan Al Balooshi, Adel Al Marzougi, Khalifa Al Remeithi, Mohammed Dasmal, Mohammed Al Sammach, Mohammed Al Mansoori, Ahmed Al Mheiri and Hamdan Al Ali.
Another Emirati rider, Khalid Al Falasi, heads the Over 450cc standings, while Al Mashghouni leads the quads after winning the opening round and taking third place in Round 2.
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