MERC Half Moon Bay set to host new Sharqia Rally

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

For immediate release
Monday, November 10th, 2008

·Al-Rajhi, Al-Sabban and Al-Ghamdi lead Saudi Arabian rally challenge
·Jordan's Amjad Farrah heads international entrants into historic new era

HALF MOON BAY (Saudi Arabia): The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's first ever international special stage rally - the 2008 Sharqia Rally - gets underway with a four-kilometre timed super special on Tuesday (November 11th) afternoon. The event marks the Kingdom's first footsteps on a path towards a place in the 2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

An impressive 23 entrants will tackle 13 timed special stages in the popular Half-Moon Bay area of the Eastern Province. The new event is being run by the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation 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.

The largest country in the Middle East has never hosted a round of the regional rally series before, but this ground-breaking candidate event is being observed by the sport's governing body, the FIA, and follows swiftly behind the successes of the Hail Saudi Baja, which took its place in the FIA International Cup for Bajas last year.

Event officials have devised a compact route within close proximity to the event's headquarters at the King Fahd Coastal City on the shores of the Arabian Gulf. "The stages are all within 35 kilometres of the headquarters and run on compacted sand and smooth surfaces and competitors should not suffer from any punctures," admitted Bahraini clerk of the course Elie Semaan.

"There are no rocks, but we have come up with some varied stages, which will be run in reverse on the second day. The first two are twisty and technical and the third one is a little faster. Some of the route passes within 10 metres of the sea and they are all very scenic. I would say that they are similar to the stages we used to run in the south of Bahrain in the old days and they also resemble some of the terrain that was used on the older Dubai rallies on day one in the Jebel Ali area. Next year we will source some more stages when we hope that the event is in the Middle East Championship."

Jordan's seeded driver Amjad Farrah will lead the line-up of drivers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Portugal, Kuwait, the United Kingdom, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Qatar and Lebanon into the timed super special on Tuesday from 15.25hrs. Cars will then enter a parc ferme area, before restarting with a further six special stages on Wednesday and as many again on Thursday, with the event reaching a conclusion with the ceremonial finish at the King Fahd Coastal City at 16.00hrs on Thursday afternoon.

"We are looking forward to hosting this first international event in the Eastern Province and, hopefully, taking our place in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship next year," said Mishaal Al-Sudairy, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF). "Our team has worked hard to come up with a brand new event in the Half Moon Bay area. We have started from scratch to devise this rally and hope that all our competitors have a safe and enjoyable rally."

Standing in Farrah's way of taking a second international rally win will be the Portuguese PWRC star Armindo Araujo, who is making his Middle East rallying debut in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Saudi Arabia's leading contenders will be Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Ahmed Al-Sabban and Majed Al-Ghamdi, while Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah, Lebanon's Doumit Bou Doumit, Kuwait's Meshari Al-Thafiri and Jordan's Faris Hijazi and Faris Bustami are capable of springing a surprise.

Bahrain is represented by Abdulrahman Ghuloom, David Scialom represents the United Kingdom, while several Jordanian, Qatari and Saudi teams complete the international field.

Top 10 starters
1. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Ahmed Ghaziri (RL)   Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX
2. Armindo Araujo (P)/Miguel Ramalho (P)   Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F)  Subaru Impreza N14
4. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Dermot O'Gorman (IRL)  Toyota S2000
5. Majed Al-Ghamdi (KSA)/Nicola Arena (I)   Subaru Impreza
6. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA)  Subaru Impreza
7. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT)/Fares Al-Thafiri (KT)  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX
8. Doumit Bou Doumit (RL)/Loaay Saker (RL)  Toyota Corolla
9. Faris Hijazi (HKJ)/Emad Juma (HKJ)   Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
10. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/TBA    Subaru Impreza 


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, 2008 Saudi Rally International Press Officer, Sharqia Rally Media Centre, King Fahd Coastal City, Half Moon Bay, Saudi Arabia, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com. www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases).


Date issued: 10/11/2008

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