MERC Kuwait Rally set to be 150th in history of regional series

FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round two

For immediate release
Tuesday, February 17th, 2009


·Kuwait Rally set to rekindle country's rallying heritage
·Inaugural Kuwait Rally winner Michel Saleh returns

KUWAIT CITY (Kuwait): The winner of next month's Kuwait International Rally will go down in the record books as the winner of the 150th event in the history of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

The region's premier rally series began with the Qatar International Rally in 1984 and has gone from strength to strength over the last 25 years, with the Kuwait event set to return to the series for the first time since 1996 on March 5th-7th.

Officials at the Kuwait Motor Sport Club (KMSC) have received numerous enquiries for the second round of the regional series, although entries do not officially close until Friday, February 20th. Among the entrants received thus far are several previous winners of rounds of the championship, including Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, a winner of 30 regional rallies who is chasing the unprecedented  total of 60 wins set by the UAE's Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

Other previous winners present in Kuwait include the UAE's Sheikh Khalid and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari, Cypriot Nicos Thomas, Qatar's Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani and Lebanon's Michel Saleh. The Kuwait Rally actually ran for the first time in 1974 and was won by Roger Taylor in a Honda Civic, but it entered the regional series for the first time in 1984 and Saleh graced the top step of the podium for the first time with Lebanon's Tony Samia co-driving.

Because of the two Gulf Wars, the Kuwait International Rally has only been a round of the regional series on seven occasions in the past, although it did run as a candidate event in March 2008 and was won by Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rajhi.

Saleh won the event just once as a round of the regional series, but Ben Sulayem holds the record for four wins in 1985, 1988, 1989 and 1996, with Qatar's Saeed Al-Hajri winning in 1986 and Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Bakhashab winning the Martyr's Rally with Bobby Willis in 1995, when the event returned to the series for two years after the first Iraq invasion.

It took 10 years of calendar changes and numerous upheavals in regional rallying, after Al-Hajri's maiden MERC win in Qatar 1984, before someone could record the 50th MERC rally win. The honour fell to Mohammed Ben Sulayem in Jordan, with Lebanon's Jean-Pierre Nasrallah recording the 100th MERC victory on his home event in 2002.

This year's Kuwait International Rally will run under the patronage of Faisal Al-Jazaf, chairman and general manager of the public authority for youth and sports in the State of Kuwait, and under the presidency of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Dawood Al-Sabah, president of the KMSC and chairman of the organising committee.

"There are many drivers out there who would dearly love to win the 150th event in the history of the MERC and take victory on our return to the championship," said Sheikh Ahmad Al-Dawood Al-Sabah. "This championship has a fascinating history and you only have to look down the list of previous rally winners to see the international calibre of some of the drivers. Hopefully it will not be too long before a Kuwaiti driver graces the list of previous rally winners."

One Kuwaiti driver who will be determined to finish as high as possible is Eid Falah. He has secured backing from Rima Motors for his challenge this year with Khalid Khalifa and will be one of several local drivers in the hunt for honours. Falah finished fifth overall in last year's candidate rally.

For further information, please contact the Kuwait Motor Sport Club, PO Box 29, Salmiya, 22001 Kuwait, Tel: + (965) 253 55511 and 25355522, Fax: + (965) 253 55566, E-mail: admin@q8racing.com or q8racingclub@yahoo.com, www.q8racing.com

FIA Middle East Rally Championship - (1984 to present day)

Previous rally winners (149)

1. Mohammed Ben Sulayem (UAE)   60
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)    30
3. Saeed Al-Hajri (QA)    11
4. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)    6
4. Roger Feghali (RL)     6
6. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY)    4
7. Abdullah Bakhashab (KSA)    3
7. Björn Waldegård (S)    3
7. Jean-Pierre Nasrallah (RL)    3
10. Suhail bin Maktoum (UAE)    2
10. Khalifa Al-Mutaiwi (UAE)    2
10. Michel Saleh (RL)     2

13. 17 drivers have won one round of the MERC:
Charalambous Thimotheou (CY), Amjad Farrah (HKJ), Andreas Peratikos (CY), Chris Thomas (CY), Samir Ghanem (RL), Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE), Abbas Al-Motaiwi (QA), Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA), Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani (QA), Maurice 'Bagheera' Senaoui (RL), Tony Georgiou (RL), Alex Fiorio (I), Piero Liatti (I), Russell Brookes (GB), Alain Oreille (F), Nizar Shanfari (OM), Nicos Thomas (CY).


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, International Media Liaison Officer, 2009 Kuwait International Rally, NDP Publicity Services, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com, www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)


Date issued: 17/02/2009

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