FIA vice president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has thrown his weight behind Abu Dhabi's proposed entry to next year's World Rally Championship, but sources have suggested the Emirate's step up to the WRC might not be entirely straightforward.
Abu Dhabi's arrival on the proposed WRC calendar for next season – at the expense of Rally Jordan, the Middle East's first-ever WRC round – is the most controversial talking point of tomorrow's meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Bahrain. Abu Dhabi has not yet run a candidate rally for inspection by the FIA, and will not do so until December this year.
There has been speculation that FIA president Jean Todt could veto the all-new rally that would be based at the Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit, but 14-time Middle East Rally champion Ben Sulayem is strongly in favor of Abu Dhabi's event getting approved.
"Motorsport has come a long way here [in the UAE], and I am convinced that now is the right time to bring the WRC to Abu Dhabi," he said. "Bringing a round of the WRC to the UAE will also be beneficial to the region as a whole, because it will serve as a platform to further promote and develop the sport in the Middle East. There is a need to further improve promotion of the WRC by reorganizing the championship to cater to the needs of all stakeholders."
Sulayem concluded by agreeing with WRC promoter North One Sport that rotating rounds of the series was not the way forward, the vice president being a firm fan of a fixed calendar.
A decision on the 2011 calendar, proposed to the WRC Commission last month by North One Sport, is expected from WMSC tomorrow. A further decision from the meeting is expected to rubber-stamp Pirelli's position as the control tire supplier for the next three years.