MERC Leading rally drivers arrive in Doha for Qatar Rally
2009 NBK Qatar International Rally
2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1
For immediate release
Tuesday, January 20th 2008
REGION'S LEADING RALLY DRIVERS ARRIVE
IN DOHA FOR THIS WEEKEND'S QATAR RALLY
· Teams carry out full 'recce' of desert special stages
· Competitors arrive from other global rally events
DOHA (Qatar): Drivers, co-drivers, event officials and team representatives have arrived in Doha to make their final preparations for this weekend's NBK Qatar International Rally, the opening round of the 2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, which takes place in the deserts around Losail, north of Doha, on Friday and Saturday.
Ahead of 34 teams lie 14 challenging special stages in the Qatar deserts, which competitors were permitted to check at low speeds for the first time on Tuesday and tomorrow (Wednesday) under FIA guidelines. The route has been devised by staff at the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMS), which is run under the presidency of former competitor Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah.
Several rally team mechanics, French co-driver Matthieu Baumel and one member of the media arrived in Doha directly from the finish of the 31st Dakar Rally in Buenos Aires. Baumel had co-driven Guerlain Chicherit to ninth place overall in the South American classic, which finished in Argentina's capital on Sunday afternoon. He will team up this weekend with Saudi Arabian driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi in a new Peugeot 2007 S2000, the entry marking the first time that an S2000 Peugeot has taken part in a rally in the Middle East.
"I feel remarkably fresh and ready to go," admitted Baumel, before heading out into the desert to check some of the morning's special stages for the first time. "I managed to get a flight which arrived about one an a half hours before the recce started, so it is all systems go!"
Irish co-driver Michael Morrissey arrived in Doha directly from taking part in the Galway International Rally in Ireland at the weekend with top Irish driver Eamonn Boland. "The weather is a bit different, for sure, and that is a welcome relief," said Morrissey. "I hope I have better luck this week than I did on Sunday with Eamonn. We were leading the rally quite handsomely, despite rain and ice, and then the engine let go. It's a sickening feeling when you hear the noise of a sick engine."
Clerk of the course Elie Semaan, from Bahrain, is pleased with the route and the condition of the special stages for this weekend's traditional seasonal opener. Recent weather has been kind to the northern Qatar deserts and feedback so far has been positive from competitors. "The stages are well defined and graded," insists Semaan. "There is little chance of losing your way and the road book isn't really needed once you have reached the stage starts. We got some good reviews for the stages last year and that gave us the incentive to make things even better in 2009."
Tomorrow (Wednesday) will be the second day of 'recce' for competitors, while race officials finalise the set-up for the rally headquarters within the Losail International Circuit. Several of the leading drivers will then attend the official FIA pre-event press conference at 2pm on Thursday afternoon at Losail, prior to the official start on Friday morning. Documentation will take place on Wednesday evening and the final line-up of cars will pass through official scrutineering checks on Thursday to ensure FIA legality and eligibility.
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, Chief Press Officer, 2009 NBK Qatar International Rally, Losail International Circuit, Media Centre, Doha, Qatar, Tel: + 974 4728623, Fax: + 974 4728653, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)