The Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) will host round two of the 2023 FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) for the second successive season on February 16th-18th.
Officials at the QMMF have laid on a slightly revised three-day format that offers 13 timed special stages and 209.69km competitive kilometres in a route of 618.52km.
The Sultanate of Oman will arrange the opening rally in the six-event series on January 26th-28th and the Qatar event will then be followed by further rounds in Kuwait (March 16th-18th), Jordan (May 18th-20th), Lebanon (September 1st-3rd) and Cyprus (September 22nd-24th).
Scrutineering facilities and the media centre will be based at the LCSC Karting Academy for the first time. After technical checks on Wednesday and Thursday (February 15th and 16th), the event will get underway with the traditional pre-event press conference and ceremonial start.
The competitive action fires into life with a new floodlit 3.27km super special stage at the LCSC Karting Academy from 20.00hrs on Thursday evening.
The demanding Qatar deserts will then play host to two days of competitive action. Two loops of three specials are planned for Friday (February 17th) with competitors tackling the challenging Al-Khor special and revised gravel tests at Ras Laffan and Al-Thakira in the north of the country
Two passes through a new stage at Waab Al-Mashrab and similar stages to last year at Al-Waab and Umm Birka are on the agenda for Saturday (February 18th) before the post-event press conference, prize giving and ceremonial finish take centre stage from 18.30hrs onwards.
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 work as the Clerk of the Course alongside his deputy, Rashed Al-Sulaiti. Almeida is currently working in a similar capacity at the 45th Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia.
“After the success of the Qatar International Rally in 2022, that attracted several exciting names from the world of rallying, we are particularly excited about hosting the 2023 event,” said QMMF Executive Director Amro Al-Hamad. “Our team has made slight revisions and improvements to the format, made the route even more compact and introduced tweaks to polish what is already viewed as one of the leading rallies in the region.”
The QMMF has also announced a series of generous concessions for international and GCC competitors keen to tackle the Qatar event. International competitors (cars and T4 entries) will be given a $6,000 shipping allowance, with GCC entrants receiving $3,000, subject to vehicles passing scrutineering and administrative checks.
Entry fees will also be returned and competitor entering before the first cut off date will be awarded a bonus of 1,000 QAR. 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.