This is quite interesting. There's a lot of... erm... 'competitive energy' in the gulf states, with Qatar pretty heavily disliked by Saudi Arabia and its close allies like Bahrain. There's been quite the power struggle going on there for the last 15 years or so. What the hell does all this politics have to do with rally? Well, here's my theory: Nasser. Nasser Al-Attiyah is Qatari. And he's bloody successful. He keeps turning up in western races with a car smothered in Qatari tourism ads. And in January, he literally drove through the middle of Saudi Arabia with an ad for the Qatar 2022 world cup on the side of his bakkie. I doubt very much that the ruling classes in Saudi liked that too much. So what are they going to do about it? No matter how 'malleable' ASO's ethics may be, booting Nasser's entry is clearly a bridge too far, so pressuring ASO is out. So what can Saudi do? Deploying a heavy handed approach didn't work too well on the international stage recently when they went to town on that journalist, so any 'accidents' for Nasser are out. So they need to deploy some other resources they have. And one thing that the ruling classes have in the middle east is CASH. Queue a LOT of middle eastern states or state owned companies suddenly taking an interest in rally raid, and signing up deals with the biggest names in motorsport. It's no co-incidence that at a Peugeot found it's way into the hands of Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi (UAE, a Saudi ally). And we see Yazeed Al Rajhi (Saudi Arabian) in a Toyota, and Yasir Seaidan (also Saudi) in a Mini. That's literally all the top hardware in the car class accounted for! And all three of those drivers have state backing. This little proxy war, presuming it remains gentlemanly, will be great for rally raid as there'll be plenty of cash sloshing about. Hopefully this also means opportunities for highly sophisticated outfits such as Prodrive to provide extra vehicles for other top drivers. It remains to be seen if this cash splashes over into the bike class.