Abu Dhabi Racing: “We need to think about our commitment to the MERC”

Abu Dhabi Racing issued a statement concerning the drama which ensued in the Middle East Rally Championship finale, or to be more precise, after the final event of the series in Dubai. Two drivers went into this round fighting for the title – Abu Dhabi Racing’s Khalid Al Qassimi and Nasser Al Attiyah of Qatar. The fight for the win was very close, judging by the final results, with only 3 tenths of a second separating two leading drivers. Al Qassimi took victory and with it the 2014 title, but Al Attiyah decided to submit an appeal. Long story short (because there is a more elaborate description in the Abu Dhabi Racing’s official statement below) – stewards of the event rejected Al Attiyah’s protest, but he decided to push the matter further, so case ended up with FIA’s International Court of Appeal. This body decided to overturn stewards decision and accept Al Attiyah’s protest. They also penalized Al Qassimi, causing him to drop down the order, lose a victory and with it the 2014 MERC crown. One day later, Nasser Al Attiyah was awarded at the FIA Prize giving ceremony in Qatar’s capital Doha.

FIA did not, to my knowledge at least, issue any elaborate statements concerning this particular case, apart from the official ruling of its Court of Appeal, which is very brief and lacks any usable detail.

What follows here is Abu Dhabi Racing’s official statement.

Al Qassimi, “I’m very disappointed with the FIA’s final decision.”

Abu Dhabi Racing’s statement after the International Court of Appeal decision

Doha, December 6, 2014 – Following Sheikh Khalid bin Faisal Al Qassimi’s victory in Dubai International Rally on November 29th, an appeal was raised by Qatari driver Nasser Bin Saleh Al Attiyah’s team to the Dubai International Rally stewards to reconsider the result. The appeal was rejected by the stewards because Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi’s tracking was identified as legal during the Rally.

Following this the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) raised an appeal on behalf of Nasser Al Attiyah in the International Court of Appeal. The Court has subsequently decided that Nasser Al-Attiyah was the winner of the Dubai International Rally. As a result of this decision, Al-Attiyah also wins the 2014 Middle East Rally Championship title.

The International Court of Appeal decision, announced on the 4th of December, the day before the FIA prize giving ceremony, was a great disappointment to Sheikh Khalid bin Faisal Al Qassimi, who was attending the hearing in Doha.

“The competition with Nasser Al Attiyah in Dubai International Rally reached a very high level and was very close. The times that I recorded in the stages speak for themselves. Obviously I am very disappointed with the decision but the International Court of Appeal has the final call.” Al Qassimi stated.

“I believe that I won Dubai International Rally fairly, I was the fastest in most of the stages. I feel that the decision is not fair to me or to the team.”

“I have proposed several times that cars participating in the Middle East Rally Championship should have on-board cameras, but for some reason this control solution has not been taken into consideration!”

Sheikh Khalid bin Faisal Al Qassimi’s lawyer Mr. Zeeshan Dhar commented: “The ICA decision was based on a route deviation which is out of kilter with all applicable regulations applied by the FIA appointed rally stewards, as a result, there is no legal or rational basis for the ICA decision. Furthermore, we presented the ICA with clear and unequivocal evidence by way of video footage that the appellant, who was seeking to penalise Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi for the route deviation, had himself knowingly committed a far more egregious route deviations for which he was not penalised!”