Khalid Al Qassimi won his second FIA Middle East Rally Championship title with victory in the Dubai International Rally.

The quickest driver on the stages on day one, Al Qassimi nonetheless ended the first leg in second overall after being handed a penalty for a false start. With a deficit of 6.8s to make up on the leader, the DS3 RRC driver was determined to go after the win that would secure him the MERC title. However, the gap edged up over 10 seconds before he started to reduce the deficit, going 6.1s faster than his rivals on SS10.

On the following test, Khalid Al Qassimi claimed another stage win to grab the overall lead by just 0.4s, meaning the rally would be decided on the 26km-long final stage. In spite of a slow puncture, Al Qassimi and co-driver Chris Patterson set the second fastest time on the stage, 0.1s off the lead pace. As a result, the rally and the MERC title was won by just 0.3s.

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"We did the right thing in refusing to give up," Al Qassimi said. 2With everyone in the team, we have battled hard for this result. It's a fantastic result for Citro?n, which wins this international rally title for the first time. With each rally, we have improved and adapted the DS3 RRC to the specifics of the Middle East.

"This weekend, once again we made a great deal of progress and that excites me, looking ahead. It has also been a great occasion for the United Arab Emirates, a few days before celebrations of our national day begin. I really wanted to win, both for the team and for my country."

Citro?n Racing Team Principal Yves Matton said the MERC title was the culmination of two years' work.

"Congratulations to Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi for winning this title with flair," Matton said. "It was also his first win with the DS3 RRC, and that is just rewards for the work that everyone has put into this project over the last two years.

"When Citro?n Racing decided to enter the MERC, we knew that it would be a huge challenge, competing against drivers and teams that are experienced in this championship. With each rally, we have tried to get the absolute maximum out of the DS3 RRC, which is closely derived from the WRC. We'll be looking to defend this title next year!"