The Middle East Programme

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David Sutton Motorsport has two cars stationed permanently abroad for the Middle East Rally Championship. Both are 400 bhp Group B Audi Quattro A2s; one is used for competition, the other for practice. In addition there are two fully-equipped service vans, a massive amount of spares and an Audi 200 Avant chase-car which will stay out there until the end of December.

A month before each event, two or three mechanics are flown out to prepare both cars. One mechanic and one of the service vans maintain a watching brief during practice, which is not the form of reconnaissance we know in Europe but a full-blown rehearsal of the rally itself. In fact, on one of the events this year, the speeds on the rally did not reach those of practice!

Pace notes are remarkably different to those used elsewhere: in the Middle East you worry less about corners, since you have a mile and a half to negotiate them, but more about the vertical plain.

One example of this is given by Steve Bond, (co-driving with Saeed Al Hajri this year). When approaching a hillock on one particular rally, all the pace notes indicated was to turn either 90° right or 90° left; come the event, it was purely the driver’s choice which way he went round. If really pushed, he could also go straight over, though it was important to keep reading the notes as if he had taken the turn, so as to pick up the route on the other side.

Preparation of the cars is also completely different in this series. After the first event, DSM found that the sandblasting of suspension components was literally wearing them away; Kevlar guards and the suspension parts were subsequently beefed up.

Four days before each event, another four mechanics are sent out do the last minute work on both cars, and a day or two before the start the rest of the team arrives. Two or three local mechanics, known as mercenaries, are also employed on an on-event basis.

Of the two events to date, Saeed Al Hajri has led both but been denied victory in either — in Qatar due to a puncture, and Kuwait due to a protest from a rival competitor. WPK