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MERC Portuguese star Armindo Araujo heads to Saudi Arabia

Sharqia (Saudi) Rally 2008
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, official candidate event

For immediate release
Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

PORTUGUESE WRC STAR ARMINDO
ARAÚJO HEADS TO SAUDI ARABIA
 
·Saudi Arabia's new MERC candidate renamed the Sharqia Rally
·Saudi's Al-Sabban joins Jordan's Farrah on swelling entry list

RIYADH (Saudi Arabia): Portugal's WRC star Armindo Araújo has joined an impressive list of entrants for Saudi Arabia's official candidate event for the 2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship on November 10th-13th, 2008.

The two-day, special stage event is being organised by the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF) under the patronage of HRH Prince Mohamed bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Governor of the Eastern Province and the Chairman of the Higher Committee for the new Saudi Rally. It has been renamed the Sharqia (Arabic for Eastern) Rally, because it takes place in the Kingdom's vast eastern region.

Araújo is one of the fastest drivers in the FIA Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) and will be making his first appearance in the Middle East to sample rallying in showroom-type cars over desert terrain. The 31-year-old began rallying in 2000 and clinched the Portuguese Rally Championship's 1600 class two years later in a Citroën Saxo.

He won the title outright the following season and also clinched the 1600 class, before retaining both titles in 2004. He has since driven an official Mitsubishi Portugal entry on rounds of the WRC and gained vital experience with some useful performances in the PWRC.

Ahmed Al-Sabban is one of the region's most experienced drivers and the Saudi star has entered his Toyota S2000 car in his home event. Al-Sabban began rallying in the Middle East back in 1993 with a Ford Escort and has entered numerous rounds of the series in the past 15 years. This year he decided to become the first Arab driver to opt for the S2000 route instead of a traditional Group N car, but useful stage times have not been turned into top finishes and he missed the recent event in Jordan to prepare the Toyota for the Sharqia Rally.

"I am delighted that Saudi Arabia is hosting a special stage rally," enthused Al-Sabban. "This is something that many of us have been looking forward to for a long time. I know the Toyota has great potential. We just need to sort the reliability and some teething problems and we will be setting some top times."

The Saudi will be joined on the entry list by Jordan's Amjad Farrah, who has decided to tackle the Saudi event rather than take part in the seventh round of the Middle East rally series in Cyprus a few days before. Farrah is also a regular on the PWRC circuit, but has endured a miserable run of luck in the Gulf region and has yet to collect a point in the championship this year. Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Lebanon's Saudi-based Doumit Bou Doumit join Farrah on the Sharqia Rally entry list.

Meanwhile, Ken Skidmore of Autotek has confirmed that Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi has acquired Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah's Jordan Rally-winning Subaru Impreza N14 and will use the Prodrive-built car for the first time in Saudi Arabia. Autotek has won every round of the regional series this season, with the exception of the Cyprus Rally, where Nicos Thomas received Autotek assistance.

The event will be based in the Half Moon Bay area of Al-Khobar, which is easily accessible for overseas competitors from the Bahrain Causeway. Scrutineering will take place on Tuesday, November 11th at Automoto between Al Khobar and Damman. This will be followed by a spectator stage at King Fahd Coastal City and the two days of desert competitive action will be on Wednesday, November 12th and Thursday, November 13th.

Further information is available from the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, PO Box 87881, Riyadh 11652, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Tel: + 9661 477 1035, Fax: + 9661 477 1050 and from Hamoud Al-Jabry, Mobile: +966 560 623436, E-mail:aljabry@samf.gov.sa, www.samf.gov.sa
   
Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2008 Saudi Rally International Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com. www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases).
 
www.samf.gov.sa
www.merc-fia.com

Date issued: 29/10/2008

For further information or assistance please contact:

NDP Publicity Services
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