(MENAFN - The Peninsula) The Peninsula
Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah (pictured), the Arab world's most famous rally driver and a sporting ambassador for Qatar, is expected to top the entry list for the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally (QCCR), the opening round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, on February 21-26.
Fresh from his domination of the recent Dakar Rally, where he and French navigator Matthieu Baumel guided Toyota to a first ever victory on the world's toughest rally, Al Attiyah is expected to try and win back the FIA World Cup and Qatar titles that he last won in 2017.
The Qatari's home off-road event is close to his heart and the host nation's sporting all-rounder has already secured victory on the event on five occasions (2012 and 2014-2017) in seven years.
Entries officially close on February 5, but the opening round of the FIA World Cup is sure to attract many of the sport's leading protagonists, despite its close proximity to the South American event that finished last Thursday (January 17th).
The German X-raid is likely to send cars to the deserts of Qatar, with Poland's Jakub Przygonski and his Belgian navigator Tom Colsoul looking to target the defence of their FIA World Cup title and the first win they claimed in a MINI John Cooper Works Rally in Qatar last April.
Scott Abraham, managing director of the South Racing and South Racing Can-Am Teams, has also confirmed that his Russelsheim-based operation will send vehicles to the Qatar event. South Racing built Can-Am Maverick X3s that claimed the first four places in the Side-by-Side (SxS) category at the recent Dakar Rally and there were 17 cars built by the team at the finish in Lima last week.
In 2017, South Racing-run cars in the hands of Germany's Jürgen Schröder and Spaniard Fernando Alvarez finished eighth and 12th in Qatar. Alvarez returned last April in a new Volkswagen Amarok, but retired on the final day after sub-frame damage and hefty time penalties.
This year's FIA off-road scene has been split into two different championships by officials at the sport's governing body and five long distance five or six-day events in Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Morocco will count for the FIA World Cup, while eight shorter Baja-style events in Russia, Dubai, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Poland, Jordan and Portugal constitute a new FIA Baja series.
Organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF), the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally gets underway with a ceremonial start on The Pearl-Qatar on 21 February and finishes on 26 February.