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MERC Armindo Araujo takes early lead in Sharqia Rally

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

For immediate release
Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

PORTUGAL'S ARAUJO LEADS SHARQIA RALLY AFTER
OPENING SUPER SPECIAL STAGE AT HALF MOON BAY

·Second place for Jordan's Farrah; Saudi's Al-Rajhi holds third overall
·Prince Abdulaziz Bin Fahd Bin Abdullah Al-Saud experiences rallying

HALF MOON BAY (Saudi Arabia): The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's first ever FIA-sanctioned special stage rally got underway with a four-kilometre timed spectator stage on Half Moon Bay, in the Al-Khobar region of the Eastern Province, on Tuesday afternoon.

Portugal's visiting Armindo Araujo and Miguel Ramalho set the fastest time on the opening test of the 2008 Sharqia Rally and will take a tiny 0.3-second lead into Wednesday's desert stages on this candidate event for possible inclusion in the 2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

The event is being held 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, and attracted 22 starters. Jordan's Amjad Farrah and Lebanese co-driver Ahmed Ghaziri held second overall after the timed super special, with Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rajhi and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel setting the third fastest time in their Subaru. Saudi's Majed Al-Ghamdi held fourth overall and Jordan's Ammar Hijazi rounded off the top five.

Jordanian driver Faris Bustami teamed up with his Amman-based business partner and co-driving rookie Wa'al Al-Jamali to hold 12th position. Bustami had opted to use his older car to enable Saudi Arabia's Essa Al-Dossari to wheel out his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII. Al-Dossari was 13th on the spectator stage.

Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rajhi arrived on Monday directly from the Troodos Rally in Cyprus, but he damaged the engine in his Subaru on a shakedown test. He managed to borrow an engine from Jordan's Ammar Hijazi and mechanics worked frantically to refettle the Impreza for Tuesday afternoon's start.

On the eve of the event Prince Abdulaziz Bin Fahd Bin Abdullah Al-Saud, Chairman of the Tourism Council Eastern Region, was taken for a ride in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution rally car by Lebanese driver Abdo Feghali and enjoyed the experience immensely before being shown around rally headquarters by SAMF officials. Prince Abdul Aziz was also present at the official start on Tuesday afternoon.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) cars will tackle six special stages within 35 kilometres of the King Fahd Coastal City on Half Moon Bay. The Al Zabnah, Al Uqair and Qaryah specials will run on sandy surfaces from 11.18hrs, 11.46hrs and 12.04hrs and will be repeated on Wednesday afternoon from 13.52hrs, 14.20hrs and 14.38hrs. The first two are twisty and technical, but the Qaryah special features several fast straights and is one of the fastest timed tests in the Gulf region.

"The stages have their own unique character," admitted visiting Irish co-driver Dermot O'Gorman, who is co-driving for Saudi driver Ahmed Al-Sabban. "They are very fast in places and may cut up a little after heavy usage, but they are well defined and should offer quite a challenge."

The event will finish on Thursday afternoon after a further six special stages and has already been pencilled in for an April date in next year's regional rally series.

Positions after SS1 (Half Moon Bay - spectator stage):
1. Armindo Araujo (P)/Miguel Ramalho (P) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution  2m 12.1s
2. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Ahmed Ghaziri (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX  2m 12.4s
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Subaru Impreza N14  2m 15.1s
4. Majed Al-Ghamdi (KSA)/Nicola Arena (I) Subaru Impreza   2m 16.2s
5. Ammar Hijazi (HKJ)/Ata Al Hmoud (HKJ) Subaru Impreza   2m 19.6s
6. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT)/Fares Al-Thafiri (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX  2m 19.9s
7. Doumit Bou Doumit (RL)/Loaay Saker (RL) Toyota Corolla   2m 21.0s
8. Saeed Al-Mori (KSA)/Amr Rafai (KSA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX  2m 21.4s
9. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Subaru Impreza   2m 21.8s
10. Jaber Al-Marri (QA)/Ala'a Hmoud (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX  2m 24.1s

Ends

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).
 
www.samf.gov.sa
www.saudirally2008.com
www.merc-fia.com

Date issued: 11/11/2008

For further information or assistance please contact:

NDP Publicity Services
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Shropshire TF10 7EN United Kingdom

Tel/Fax: +44 (0) 1952 825001
Mobile: + 44 (0) 7831 123153 (UK)

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