FIA Middle East Rally Championship - Round Two

KUWAIT CITY ( Kuwait) - Kuwaiti driver Meshari Al-Thafiri heads to his home round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) next week eager to defend a lead in the Group N championship category that he earned at last month’s QMMF Qatar International Rally.
The second round of the six-event regional rally series is being organised by the Kuwait Quarter Mile Auto & Motorcycle Club (KMRC), under the chairmanship of Sheikh Athbi Nayef Jaber Al-Sabah, and takes place on March 20-22.
Al-Thafiri was in impressive form at the wheel of his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X inQatar and he and navigator Fahad Al-Mutairi finished the event in ninth place and collected maximum points in the Group N or showroom category.
Germany’s Edith Weiss, Qatar’s Hitmi Khalifa Al-Hitmi and Qatar’s Nada Zeidan also scored Group N points in Doha, although Al-Thafiri knows that the competition will be that much stronger when he tackles 13 timed desert stages at his home event in two weeks’ time, even though all three of his Qatar Rally rivals will be present in Kuwait.
In a special tribute to the late Qatari driver Misfer Al-Marri - the 2010 regional champion who passed away in a London hospital last month after a long illness - the KMRC has re-named the first of the Friday desert stages in his memory and there will be a one-minute silence before the official start ceremony on Thursday, March 20th.
Sharjah driver Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi is looking forward to the event in Kuwaitafter missing round one in Qatar. The former regional Group N champion has been waiting for his new Ford Fiesta RRC to be completed in the UAE and it is now ready and heading to Kuwait in time for the ceremonial start and opening super special stage at the Sirbb circuit.
“I am looking forward to Kuwait,” said Sheikh Abdullah. “My mechanics in the workshop have built the car and I will try my best to score as many points as possible.”
After several seasons working with British co-driver Steve Lancaster, Al-Qassimi will also ring in the changes with a new navigator. The experienced French female co-driver Catherine Derousseaux will partner the Emirati and they began their campaign in fine style by winning the opening round of the Oman national rally championship recently.
A former competitor in the gruelling Dakar Rally with English driver Anthony Harris in the Race2Recovery Team, 26-year-old Derousseaux will be starting her first desert MERC event, but she comes from a motor sport background.
Her godfather is the four-time Dakar winner Pierre Lartigue and she has tackledevents in Tunisia and in the Lebanese national championship alongside Gilbert Bannout and Ghassan Ghoury, in addition to WRC and French rallies with the talented female driver Charlotte Berton. 
There will also be a special celebration of the 30-year anniversary of the regional rally series and the first ever Kuwait International Rally to be held as part of the MERC in 1984 and won by Lebanon’s Michel Saleh in a Toyota Celica GT.
Saleh has been an ever-present in the championship for 30 years and will take part in the event on this occasion as part of the celebrated anniversary of the MERC. The 1984 runner-up Ahmed Al-Thafiri and third-placed Ali Al-Biramei will also be honoured.