QMMF unveils new-look Qatar Rally to kick-start MERC season

QMMF unveils new-look Qatar Rally to kick-start MERC season By A Robin - December 10, 2023


The Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) will host the opening round of the 2024 FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) from February 1 to 3.

With the Oman International Rally moving to a later date in February, Qatar returns to its former position at the start of the season with events set to follow in the Sultanate of Oman, Jordan, Lebanon and Cyprus.

Officials at the QMMF have laid on a revised three-day format that offers 13 timed special stages and 199.95km competitive kilometres in a route of 622.49km. Scrutineering facilities will be based at the Lusail Sports Arena with media and administration based out of QMMF’s offices.

On Thursday, February 1, the pre-event press conference (18.30hrs) and ceremonial start (19.00hrs) will take place at Lusail Boulevard for the first time.

Competitors will then tackle a floodlit 3.27km super special stage at the LCSC Karting Academy from 20.00hrs on Thursday evening. On this occasion, two cars will tackle the stage at the same time and start and finish at opposite points of the circuit.

Qatar’s demanding northern deserts will then host two days of frenetic action with two loops of three special stages scheduled for both Friday, February 2 and 3. One stage remains unchanged from 2023, another will be run in the opposite direction and four feature minor tweaks for safety and sporting reasons.

Drivers will tackle the two days in reverse to 2023 with the Waab Al Mashrab (15.32km), Al Waab (15.33km) and Umm Birka (21.38km) specials being used twice on Friday and split by a return to the Lusail Sports Arena for a regroup and midday service.

Saturday’s timetable features two passes through each of the Al Khor (16.90km), Ras Laffan (15.93km) and Al Thakira (13.48km) special stages before the post-event press conference, prize giving and ceremonial finish take centre-stage from 18.30hrs onwards at Lusail Boulevard.

The Al Thakira stage has also been defined in such a way that it will conform to any Power Stage requirements that may be introduced into the regional rally series in the 2024 FIA Regional Rally Sporting Regulations.

The rally will be held under the chairmanship of QMMF President Abdulrahman Al Mannai, senior committee member Abdulrazaq Al Kuwari and the QMMF’s Executive Director Amro Al Hamad. Portugal’s Pedro Almeida will again work as the Clerk of the Course alongside his deputy Rashid Al Sulaiti.

“We are delighted to be hosting the opening round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship this year,” said QMMF Executive Director Amro Al Hamad.

“Our event has consistently seen the strongest entry on any round of the championship and we have seen some fantastic competition in the last couple of years. Our team has again laid on a challenging route and I am sure that it will provide the perfect backdrop to the start of what we all hope will be an exciting season.”

Supplementary regulations and further details are available from www.qmmf.com, with first entries closing on Wednesday, January 3.

A final cut-off date has been set for Wednesday, January 17.

The QMMF has also announced a series of generous concessions for international and GCC competitors.

International entrants will be given a $6,000 shipping allowance, with GCC teams receiving $3,000, subject to all vehicles passing scrutineering and administrative checks.

In addition, the QMMF will arrange economy class flight tickets for both driver and co-driver, once entry fees are paid, and supply one twin room with breakfast for five nights.

Start prizes will also be awarded: entrants who pass scrutineering and administrative checks and enter before the first cut-off date will receive QR 5000 and QR 4000 will be awarded to starters who enter after the early cut-off and before January 17.

By A Robin - December 10, 2023

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