2003 FIA Rally
A very disappointing event - in short, we experienced a broken CV joint on Day 1 which put us out of the running for Day 2 - this basically meant that we could not compete in the FIA Championship, but were allowed to run in the National Class for Days 3 and 4.
Unofficial timing put us in 11th place for Day 3, 11th place for Day 4 leg 1 and 5th place for Day 4 leg 2.
The Dog’s Diaries
Team member Tim Ansell took up the story (and then found it difficult to write when his other 'Saluki' duties were thrust upon him - namely being elected as the 2004 co-driver!):
In rallying, as with so many sports, all but the die hard enthusiast fans tend only to remember the winners. “To the victor the spoils” may well be true, but as is common these days, winning often comes at an enormous cost. Add together the value of the first three cars to finish this year’s U.A.E. Marlboro Desert Challenge, (works Mitsubishi, Ford sponsored Schlesser buggy, works BMW) plus the cost of maintaining and transporting their support teams, and you could probably buy most of the rest of the field of finishers with the money.
Last year the Dubai based Team Saluki managed a very creditable 5th place overall in what is one of the hardest cross country rallies on earth, and encouraged by this success, they set to work to improve the car for the 2003 event. Their vehicle, a Land Rover Defender 110 V8, had been completely rebuilt from the chassis up following a high speed crash in 2000, but had sustained no particular damage in last year’s race, so at least they were starting with a complete car this time!.
So how does a group of amateur enthusiasts, who certainly DON’T have access to millions of dollars of sponsorship, compete on (almost) level terms with the likes of the Mitsubishi and Nissan? This year it came down to limited sponsorship, help from local supporters, the generosity of employers, the power of the internet and a few thousand air-miles!
November 2002 - Elation:
5th place was a better result than we ever dared imagine, the car ran very well, and the only major technical problems of note were the binding of a rear brake (easily fixed), and a worn swivel joint. This SHOULD have been easily fixed too, but when one of our sponsors arrived with the part on the evening of Day 3, after a 4 hour drive from Dubai, we discovered that the part he had brought was the wrong specification! So it was back in with the worn one and fingers crossed for the last day. We got away with it, but it was a valuable lesson, learned the hard way.
December 2002 - Despair:
Only two weeks before the race, driver and team leader Mark Powell had been made redundant, and although that gave him more time to prepare the car, obviously his first concern after the race was job hunting, not sponsor hunting. For a while we didn’t know if Team Saluki would survive into 2003, and with no apparent prospects of work in the Gulf, Mark was forced to put The Saluki up for sale. Not a good month for the team….
January 2003 - Relief:
Just as Mark was contemplating leaving Dubai, an offer came in. Mark accepted and we ran down to the nearby garage where the “For Sale” adverts were up on the wall. With those safely disposed of, the team set about planning for the 2003 event.
... to be continued one day...!
Press Release: Friday, October 19th, 2003
UAE'S HEMRANI TARGETS PODIUM PLACE IN UAE DESERT CHALLENGE - Qatar's Sheikh Hamed ready for challenge; Strong local entry.
DUBAI (UAE): The UAE's Essa El-Hemrani will tackle next week's UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge, the final round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, in a Mitsubishi Pajero with co-driver Wael Marjan. The event starts with a Prologue stage on the Palm, Jumeira, at 4pm on Monday (October 19th).
El-Hemrani has been a staunch supporter of the Middle East's premier motorsport event since the late 1990s and has tackled five Desert Challenges. He finished sixth overall last year and won the T1 Marathon category in a Mitsubishi. "I am looking forward to this race immensely," said El-Hemrani. "This will be my second Desert Challenge with Wael. He is one of the best co-drivers in the UAE. It is great for local drivers that we have an event such as the Desert Challenge and I admire the efforts of Mohammed Ben Sulayem and his team in putting on the race. Mohammed has worked very hard to put the Challenge on the world map and I doubt that he could ever be replaced.
In addition to his Marlboro sponsorship, boating enthusiast El-Hemrani reckons that the Desert Challenge personally costs him in the region of $60,000 USD, compared to the $50,000 he budgets for the entire UAE Rally Championship. "It is a major undertaking for me," he added. "But I wouldn't miss it for the world."
The UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge traditionally attracts a strong line-up of local entrants, with Saeed Al-Hamli and Ahmad Malik entered in a Nissan Patrol. They are seeded at 19, ahead of UAE-based Mark Powell in his Land Rover Defender and the Liberty Rally Team duo of Ahmad Bin Soughat and Obaid Bin Hathboor in their Chevrolet Tahoes.
The 1993 Middle East rally champion Sheikh Hamed Al-Thani, from Qatar, is entered in a Nissan Patrol and is joined by Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari, the UAE's Sadiq Fadal (Mitsubishi Pajero) and fellow Qatari Mohammed Al-Mannai in a Mitsubishi.
"We are delighted that local drivers are taking part in the UAE Desert Challenge," said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the chairman of the organising committee. "We, as the organising club, offer them our best wishes and look forward to their continued support."
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