Qatari driver Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah heads an impressive field for next weekends Oman Rally Sohar International 2022, the opening round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), when he competes in the event that will start on Thursday for three consecutive days, amid the participation of a group of the best drivers in the region.
Al Attiyah, the six-time winner of the rally, will compete in the event with his French navigator Mathieu Baumel in a Volkswagen Polo R5, where he will face competition from 14 teams.
Al Attiyah faces competition from four R5 cars and the remaining entry of MERC2 and Group A cars at the start of a six-round championship that will also visit Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Cyprus.
The Qatari can expect a fierce challenge from last year's event winner Abdullah Al Rawahi in his SRT Skoda Fabia Evo and Hamed Al Wahaibi, who was out testing his Skoda Fabia Evo this week before making a return to the series in 2022 after taking part in Jordan and Cyprus in 2021.
Czech driver Petr Kacirek makes his first appearance in the MERC alongside Vaclav Kopacek in a Duck Racing Skoda Fabia Evo.
Al Attiyah seeks to continue his superiority in the Oman Rally and achieve his seventh title in the event, and then take the lead in the general standings of the Middle East Rally Championship, which holds the record for the number of wins, clinched a 17th regional title following the cancellation of the event in Kuwait, Al Attiyah returns to the country where he captured six titles in 2003-2006, 2015 and 2020.
Former MERC runner-up Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah drives a fifth R5 a Ford Fiesta - at the head of the field as he teams up with the experienced Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini, himself a winner of 25 MERC rallies alongside Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah. Al Attiyah finished third overall in Oman in 2020 and as runner-up to Al Rawahi in 2021.
Five Omani and two Jordanian drivers will compete for MERC2 honours in Oman. In the absence of defending champion Meshari Al Thefiri, Zakariya Al Aamri, Faisal Al Rashdi and Jarah Al Touqi lead the way for the host nation in a trio of Subaru Imprezas.
They are joined on the entry by fellow countrymen Haitham Al Zadjali and Ghaith Al-Qassimi in a pair of Mitsubishi Lancer Evos and the Jordanian duo of Ihab Al-Shorafa and Abu Jamous Issa in similar Lancers.
Running at the rear of the field will be Oman's Musab Al Zadjali and Haitham Al Hadidi in a Kia Rio and a Toyota Yaris and Lebanon's Alain Nawfal in a T3 Yamaha YXZ 1000 R.
The rally program will start on Thursday with a press conference in the Wilayat of Nakhal, followed by the opening ceremony and the launch of the show stage with a total length of 3.9 km, near Sultan Qaboos Mosque in the Wilayat of Nakhal.
The stages will be held in on Friday, at the governorates of Muscat and Al Khoud with a total length of 21.98 km, Misfah with a total length of 19.54 km, and Saal with a total length of 15.89 km, and each stage will be repeated twice, they include maintenance appointments in the city of Sandan in Halban, the site of the rally car maintenance area.
On Saturday, the last day of the rally, Al Batinah South Governorate, the Wilayat of Nakhal, will host 3 stages of the rally, in El Obeid with a total length of 13.25 km, and Qalqal with a total length of 17.71 km, and Dai Al Hadak Al Hasanat with a total length of 19.22 km.