Rally co-driver Chris Patterson is in centre of Middle East title dispute
Ballyclare rally co-driver Chris Patterson has found himself caught up in an acrimonious dispute between two of the most powerful men in Middle East motorsport.
Just 10 days ago, Patterson was alongside UAE driver Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi when they won the Dubai Rally to snatch the Middle East championship by a single point from Nasser Al Attiyah. But the Qatari lodged a protest, claiming Al Qassimi had "deviated from the rally route" by exceeding the 10-metre limit on cutting corners.
The stewards in Dubai threw out the protest, confirming Al Qassimi and Patterson as the rally winners and Middle East champions.
Patterson returned home after the rally and was boarding a flight back to Doha last weekend for the FIA's star-studded end-of-season awards ceremony when he learned that Al Attiyah had taken his protest to the International Court of Appeal.
The appeal was heard in Doha ahead of the awards ceremony, hosted by Al Attiyah who is a vice-president of the FIA and the Qatar Motorsport Federation, and they overturned the Dubai stewards' decision, imposing a 30-second penalty on Al Qassimi which relegated him and Patterson to second place, handing the championship to Al Attiyah.
Bizarrely, Patterson won the World production championship with Al Attiyah in 2006 and partnered him to five Middle East titles before joining up with Al Qassimi.
He has not made any comment on the controversial verdict but Al Qassimi said: "I am very disappointed with the decision but the International Court of Appeal has the final call.
"I believe that I won the Dubai International Rally fairly, I was the fastest in most of the stages. I feel that the decision is not fair to me or to the team."
Al Qassimi has said the ICA decision, combined with the FIA's decision to deny Abu Dhabi a round of the Middle East championship in favour of one in Iran, has called into question his future commitment to the series.