James Fulton will begin his 2021 season on the Qatar International Rally this weekend, navigating for Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari. The event will tick the Middle East Rally Championship off the ever-growing list of series Fulton has sampled.
The Irish co-driver competed in the European Rally Championship alongside Callum Devine last year as well as Rally Mexico and America’s Sno*Drift Rally with Barry McKenna.
With coronavirus restrictions currently prohibiting Fulton from returning to America, he is looking forward to his first-ever event in the Middle East this weekend.
“The stages over here are very unique,” explained Fulton. “It is what you would describe as desert rallying.
“But it is on tracks that run through the desert rather than sand dunes. It’s a mix of rocky areas with gravel tracks and sand.
“There are loads of different tracks joining and meeting so it is crucial to make sure you take the right one.
“It is hard to get markers for your notes in the desert. At home, I’d normally be able to add descriptions along the stage. So that will be a challenge but it is definitely one that I am looking forward to.”
Qatar Rally’s first stage is a super special close to Doha on Friday night (29 January). The event then moves into the desert with four stages on Saturday and six on Sunday.
Fulton will get a taste of Skoda’s latest Rally2 Fabia on the event which will be prepared by Toksport, fresh from their success with Andreas Mikkelsen on Rally Monte-Carlo.
“I’ve never competed on anything like this before,” admitted Fulton. “Maybe Rally Mexico has some similarities with avoiding punctures on rocky sections.
“Desert rallying is really unique so it’s definitely an experience I am glad to be getting.”
14-time Qatar Rally winner, Nasser Al-Attiyah tops the entry list for the MERC season-opener. With Kris Meeke also making an appearance, 2012 rally winner Al-Kuwari faces stiff competition if he is to take his second Qatar Rally victory.
Al-Kuwari plans to compete in more events this year including next month’s Oman Rally so Fulton will be hoping for a successful start to his latest partnership.
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Photos by MMS-Racing