MERC Misfer Al Marri leads the field into Syrian International Rally

2009 Syrian International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3

For immediate release
Thursday, June 11th, 2009




Fascinating battle in prospect between Qatar, Saudi and UAE teams

Kuwaiti and Syrian crews bolster entry for Syria desert classic


SEDNAYA (Syria): Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson lead a 19-strong international field into the Syrian International Rally, round three of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, on Friday morning.


In the absence of Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi – who are both tackling the Acropolis Rally in Greece – a new winner of the newest round of the regional series is guaranteed.


Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi should be Al-Marri’s closest challengers over the 13 desert special stages on Friday and Saturday in the area around Deir Atiyah. Of the entered drivers, only Al-Qassimi and Lebanon’s Michel Saleh have won a round of the regional series before and a new winner is highly likely on the 151st event in the history of the championship.


Al-Marri will catapult himself into the outright championship lead if he can secure 10 points for victory this weekend and his chance of taking the regional title for the first time will be further bolstered by the news that Volkswagen cross-country rallying commitments in Brazil may well force Al-Attiyah to miss the forthcoming Rally of Lebanon as well.


Mechanical problems cost Al-Rajhi crucial points in Kuwait back in March, but the Saudi driver collected eight for second position in Qatar and is also eyeing a bid for the crown, in what could develop into the most open title race for years. Al-Qassimi finished second overall in Syria last season and had the measure of Al-Marri, so a fascinating three-way battle is in prospect for the podium places.


“I think that this could be one of the closest rallies in the region for a while,” said Al-Qassimi’s co-driver Steve Lancaster. “Abdullah likes competing here and is often on the podium. Yazeed knows that he needs the points and Misfer will be feeling a little pressure starting as the top seed and knowing the burden is on him to win.”


Al-Marri’s co-driver Chris Patterson is upbeat about his driver’s chances. “There’s no question that this is the most critical rally of our season. We know that we need to take 10 points here to have a shout at the championship, but we also need to be clever and not take too many risks. Yes, we may have to push at times, but we need to finish and score points.”


Haitham Al-Yousefi and Ahmad Hamsho head the Syrian Rally Team and there is a strong presence from the Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation (QMMF). Joining Al-Marri on the entry list are Mubarak Al-Hajri, veteran Jaber Al-Marri, Khalid Al-Suwaidi, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and the 1993 regional champion, Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani.


Nick Georgiou will be chasing regional championship and Pirelli ‘Star Driver’ points. The Lebanese driver missed out on the coveted Pirelli prize on a technicality last season and needs to finish in Syria to stake his claim on the West Zone championship and qualification for the Pirelli final in Dubai in December.


Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thafiri has already qualified for that final - courtesy of his performance in Kuwait in March - and he heads the Kuwaiti contingent, which also includes Meshari Al-Sabti, Meshal Al-Nejadi, Mufeed Mubarak and Essam Al-Nejadi.


Also in need of a useful finish is Saudi Arabia’s Ahmed Al-Sabban. The Toyota S2000 driver arrived in Syria with numerous spare parts for his two-wheel drive car and has recruited the UAE’s Wael Marjan to read the pace notes.


Other notable co-driver changes include the return of Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi’s former co-driver Nicky Beech to the regional series for the first time since December 2008 with Qatar’s Khalid Al-Suwaidi and the name of Qatar-based Briton Jake Carlin alongside Jaber Al-Marri in a Subaru Impreza.


Competitive action gets underway with the 12.55km Jupiter stage at Sadad, north of Deir Atiyah, from 9.22hrs on Friday morning. The ceremonial finish is scheduled for 16.32hrs in front of the Sheraton Hotel in Sednaya after an additional 12 special stages.


This year’s rally will run under the patronage of the Syrian Ministry of Tourism and has support from the Sheraton Ma’aret Sednaya, Orient TV, Runnet, Tafour Gardens, Arabisc Radio, Europcar and Nissan.


Leading starters:

1. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB)                                    Subaru Impreza

2. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB)            Subaru Impreza

3. Nick Georgiou (RL)/Joseph Matar (RL)                 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution            

4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F)                             Peugeot 207 S2000

5. Haitham Al-Yousefi (SYR)/Yousef Al-Asmar (HKJ)                        Subaru Impreza

6. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ahmed Ghaziri (RL)                                    Subaru Impreza

7. Mubarak Al-Hajri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA)                                    Subaru Impreza

8. Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani (QA)/Mohd Arif Yousef (UAE) Subaru Impreza

9. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Wael Marjan (UAE)                        Toyota S2000

10. Ahmad Hamasho (SYR)/Ziad Chehab (RL)                                    Subaru Impreza

11. Jaber Al-Marri (QA)/Jake Carlin (GB)                                     Subaru Impreza


2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship - positions after round 2 of 7:


1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)               20 pts

2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)                              13 pts

3. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)                      12 pts

4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)                            8 pts   

5. Mufeed Mubarak (KT)                             5 pts

6. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KT)                            4 pts

6. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE)                           4 pts

8. Saleh Bin Eidan (KT)                             3 pts

8. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT)                             3 pts

10. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)                   2 pts

10. Jaber Al-Marri (QA)                              2 pts

12. Mubarak Al-Hajri (QA)                          1 pts               

12. Faisal Al-Attiyah (QA)                           1 pt



1. Michael Orr (GB)                                   16 pts

1. Chris Patterson (GB)                            16 pts

3. Matthieu Baumel (F)                             10 pts

4. Ahmad Al-Khrass (KT)                          9 pts

5. Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE)                          5 pts               

6. Steve Lancaster (GB)                            4 pts

7. Anwar Al-Sharrah (KT)                          2 pts


For further media information:
Lutfi Estwani, Chief Press Officer, Tel: + 963 11 232 3706, Fax: + 963 11 231 2785, Mobile: + 963 933234445
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, International Press Officer, 2009 Syrian International Rally, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: ndppublicity@googlemail.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)





Date issued: 11/06/2009

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