By Sahan Bidappa/Doha
Qatari rally driver Khalid al-Mohannadi is optimistic of his chances at the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally, which will be organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation from February 22-27.
Al-Mohannadi, a veteran on the circuit, will team up with experienced French navigator Sebastien Delaunay in a Polaris RZR 1000 Turbo in the hotly-contested T3 category that has attracted 11 teams. Al-Mohannadi and Delaunay are part of new a QMMF Team, which also has three competitors in Can-Am Maverick X3s.
While there is no doubt that al-Mohannadi will face a stiff challenge for podium places, the Qatari driver was given a much-needed boost with Universal Sports stepping in to sponsor him for the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies. After the first round in Qatar, the series also visits Abu Dhabi, Russia, Kazakhstan and Morocco for a second successive season.
This is apart from QMMF providing him with a Polaris RZR 1000 to drive as well as a highly experienced team of French mechanics and other support staff for the Qatar leg of the event.
Al-Mohannadi said he was all geared up for the event and was thankful for QMMF’s support. “The QMMF headed by Abdulrahman al-Mannai have been doing an exceptional job. They have always supported me in my endeavours. They have provided the car and also a high-class support staff, which will help me focus on my performance. I will always strive hard to participate and succeed in all championships organised by QMMF. I will always be grateful for their support,” he said.
“Participating in this championship is important to me as it gives me a new challenge to compete against world class drivers from 17 countries. I have a great co-driver and I will do my utmost to achieve my goal. There is obviously legendary Nasser bin Saleh al-Attiyah for me to look up to. He is a Qatari superman, who has made us fellow Qataris proud with his achievements globally,” he added.
Al-Mohannadi said his vast experience of driving in rallies in his home country will hold him in good stead in the five demanding selective sections across the Qatar deserts. The opening round of the FIA World Cup will run over five days and around 1,430 competitive kilometres in a route of 2,200km across the length and breadth of Qatar.
“I have experience in the topography of Qatar and its regions, and I know it well despite the difficulty of navigation. I have an expert navigator in Sebastien, who has previous experience in desert rallies and also can add up as a mechanic. He has previously participated in Baja Dubai with me and we achieved third place in the T3 category. It’s unfortunate during that period I could not continue to participate because of the lack of support,” he said.
Al-Mohannadi revealed that if he achieves positive results over the next week in Qatar, he will continue to participate in the rest of the Cross Country rallies. The Qatari ace was also grateful for Universal Sports for sponsoring him.
“It is an expensive sport without a sponsor. I want to thank Universal Sports Marketing for their support, and showing faith in me and sponsoring me for the rally here in Qatar and also internationally in future. I also want to thank Hamad Bin Khaled Group for Projects for their support,” he said.
Universal Sports’ marketing director Zaid Yaaroub was delighted to rope in al-Mohannadi. “We are always keen to support the Qatari talents, who will make the country proud. In Khalid, we have found our hero. We are happy to support him for the World Cup for Cross Country Rallies. We believe he is a strong contender in T3 category at the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally next week. We are honoured to support Khalid and wish him good luck in this championship. We are hopeful he will raise the flag of Qatar in international tournaments,” Yaaroub said.
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