Entries boost for revised Qatar Rally

2004 Qatar International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, candidate event

For immediate release
Thursday, February 5th, 2004


Al-Attiyah to start as favourite on home event; British teams set to take part

DOHA (Qatar): Entries are flooding in for the Qatar International Rally, a candidate round of the prestigious FIA Middle East Rally Championship, which is being organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) on February 19th-21st.

The event is not a round of the regional series this season, but has undergone several radical changes in preparation for its return to the championship in 2005. Revisions have been made to the route and the timetable and the QMMF has introduced a generous prize fund to attract both local and international teams to the three-day desert event.

Leading the local entry will be Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah in his Subaru Impreza STi. The Qatari is the defending Middle East champion and is embarking upon an ambitious programme of World and Middle Eastern events this season. He began this year's campaign by taking 10th position in the world renowned Dakar Rally across Africa and followed that success by opening the defence of his regional title with outright victory in last week's Abu Dhabi-based UAE International Rally.

Tomorrow (Friday) Nasser and British co-driver Steve Lancaster begin their Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) campaign along the icy tracks of Central Sweden, before returning to Qatar to head the field on the rain-lashed event they dominated in Doha in 2003.

~Nasser has made a great start to the season,~ admitted Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, the President of the QMMF. ~But we are also looking forward to welcoming several overseas teams to our rally in a couple of weeks. Our clerk of the course Malcolm Neill attended the recent UAE Rally in Abu Dhabi and was delighted with the interest shown in our revised rally by foreign drivers and teams from other GCC countries.~

Leading the British contingent will be Raj Jutley, who will take the start line in his two-wheel drive Opel Corsa. Partnered by East Midlands-based Zaffar Mughal, Raj had intended to compete in Abu Dhabi last week, but vital spares could not be located in time for him to fettle the Opel and he non-started.

Raj is a UK heart specialist, an accomplished surgeon and the author of a number of books on sport and fitness. He supports UK rallies by providing emergency medical care for competitors and is looking to expand this service within the Middle East.

~I've been driving on international rallies since 1998,~ said Raj. ~I have competed in the Kenyan Safari Rally three times and I briefly led the Formula Two class in 2001. During the 2002 London-Athens Rally I was lying third in class when I was asked to operate on a fellow competitor's broken neck and was forced out of the race!~

Britain's Howard Paterson looks likely to appear in his Volkswagen Golf GTi. The rallyschool owner is based in Humberside, England, and attended the UAE Rally to oversee the exploits of his wife Ruth and co-driver Sean Kukula. Paterson has tackled numerous rallies in the Middle East over many years and has also taken part in the East African Safari and classic marathon events, such as the London-Sydney and London-Mexico historic rallies.

~I have many fond memories of my time in Qatar,~ said Paterson, who also works with his wife in corporate hospitality on European rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship. ~The stages are fast, bumpy and exciting to drive. A two-wheel drive car is not ideal in these conditions, but the deserts in Qatar are quite stony and there is less of a chance of getting stuck in soft sand than there would be in the UAE.~

In addition to the generous prize fund being offered, QMMF officials are also offering excellent concessions for prospective competitors. Entrants from outside Qatar will receive two twin hotel rooms at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Doha for four persons for six nights, in addition to a refund on entry fees at documentation, a generous fuel allocation and start monies, including complimentary flights.

Competitors from GCC States will receive $950, entrants from other Middle East countries will benefit from an $1850 start bonus and drivers from Europe or further afield will be given $2650.

~The QMMF has undergone a number of exciting changes in recent months,~ added Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah. ~We are looking forward to running this international rally and then we are to organise a Baja event at the end of November for the first time in over 12 years. The QMMF is also organising a round of the Moto GP series in October. These are exciting times for staff and our competitors. These are just the first steps in our becoming a major force in Middle East motorsport.~

Competitive action in this year's event gets underway with two runs through a timed 2.53 kms super special stage in Doha from 20.10 (local time) on Thursday, February 19th.

For further information about the 2004 Qatar International Rally, contact the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (Tel: + 974 4379732, Fax: + 974 4379761 and Email: asn@qmmf.com). Website: www.qmmf.com


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2004 Qatar International Rally Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services,
Tel: + (44) 1952 825078, Fax: + (44) 1952 825001, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com/press releases

Date issued: 05/02/2004

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