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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Braking New Ground

by The Media Office

MARLBORO MAN: Mohammed bin Sulayem has a record nine Middle East rally titles

No focus on UAE sportsmen would be complete without a mention of the indomitable, and seemingly invincible, Mohammed bin Sulayem. Undoubtedly the greatest Arab rally driver ever, Sulayem is to the UAE as Michael Jordan is to America or Sachin Tendulkar to India. He is not just a sportsman but a phenomenon on four wheels who has swept all before him with mind-blowing regularity. Last year he recorded an amazing ninth FIA Middle East Championship triumph by scoring his 10th victory in 13 years in the Dubai International Rally, the final round of the 1997 series. And this year he is favourite to push his championship crowns into double figures after barnstorming his way to victories in the season's opening four events in Jordan, Oman, Abu Dhabi and, most recently, Lebanon. Much of his success has been achieved in partnership with Irishman Ronan Morgan, his co-driver for the last 10 years, who has navigated his way to seven Middle East Championship co-drivers' titles in the process. Sulayem has won an unrivalled 39 Middle East races in a career which has brought him 44 international wins overall, including two in the Group N World Championship. Now the speedster is set to underline his stature as the Arab world's top driver by entering the Guinness Book of Records for his achievements in winning the greatest number of official FIA rally championship titles, and the greatest number of individual international rallies included in official FIA rally championships. It would easy for Sulayem to sit back and revel in his glory, but he is chief organiser of the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge in a bid to put something back into a sport he has gained so much out of. His co-driver, Morgan, is event director. Raced in early December, the event attracts some of the best cross country rally drivers to the barren deserts surrounding Dubai for three days of thrilling races. It is highly competitive as it makes up the final round of the FIA World Cross Country Rally Championship. To say Sulayem is a sporting icon in this part of the world is probably an understatement but, judging by his unbeaten start to this season, there's plenty of juice left in the tank to ensure the legend lives on for a few miles yet. 

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