MERC Derek Ledger pleased with MERC registrations to date

2009 NBK Qatar International Rally
2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1

For immediate release
Wednesday, January 21st 2008


· Kuwait's Meshal Al-Nejadi returns with new Mitsubishi Lancer

DOHA (Qatar): On the eve of scrutineering for the NBK Qatar International Rally, the FIA's Vice-President and regional co-ordinator Derek Ledger has confirmed that 22 drivers and nine co-drivers have officially registered for points in the 2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

The traditional opening round of the series is being organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF), which is run under the presidency of former competitor Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah. Drivers must register before the event to ensure they score points in the eight-round series, which takes in rallies in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus and Dubai after the Qatar round this weekend. They have until the start of the next round in March to finalise registration for the series, however.

The first registration was received from the UAE's former Group N champion Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, although defending champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah was one of the first drivers to register his intention to tackle the whole series and try and win the title for a sixth time in seven years.

Other registered potential front-runners include Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri, Khalid Al-Suwaidi and Khalifa Khalifa Al-Attiyah, the 2004 regional champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh and the 1993 regional champion Sheikh Hamed bin Eid Al-Thani.

London-based Lebanese driver Nick Georgiou, the winner of the region's 2008 Pirelli Star Driver award, will tackle rounds of the series in addition to six rounds of the prestigious WRC, while Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari is again registered and bidding to continue his impressive streak of rally finishes. Al-Shanfari finished every round of the series last season in his Subaru Impreza and earned the nickname 'Mister Consistency'.

Leading the list of registered co-drivers are 2004 champion Michael Orr, defending champion Chris Patterson, 2003 series winner Steve Lancaster and Lebanon's Joseph Matar.

Meanwhile, Kuwait's Meshal Al-Nejadi has announced his return to the regional championship at the wheel of a Tok Sport Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. He was a regular in the championship for several seasons in a Citroën Saxo S1600 car, but the attraction of a car capable of winning outright was too much for the popular Kuwaiti, who teams up with Ahmed Al-Kharas in Qatar this week.

"I have been planning the return for a while now," enthused the Kuwaiti. "It's happening this week and we are really looking forward to heading out in the new car. It will be different running at the front of the field, instead of struggling with two-wheel drive behind the front-runners."

Kuwait will host the second round of the regional series in March and several Kuwaiti drivers will be hoping to kick-start their championship campaigns in Qatar. Al-Nejadi has been joined on the entry list by Meshari Al-Basti and Bader Al-Baqsami of the Al-Basti Rally Team in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII, while Essam Al-Nejadi and Anwar Al-Sharah wheel out a similar car.

Completing the Kuwaiti line-up are Mishari Al-Thafiri and Fares Al-Thafiri in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX and the seventh-seeded Salah Bin Eidan in his STS-entered Subaru Impreza WRX STi. Bin Eidan enjoyed a terrific run in the Qatar Rally last season and eventually finished fourth overall after a frantic late tussle with Qatar's Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah. "I have a chance of the podium this time around," admitted Bin Eidan.

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, Qatar mobile: + 974 432 19417, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com  www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)


Date issued: 21/01/2009

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