Leading teams make final preparations for Qatar Rally
2004 Qatar International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, candidate event
For immediate release
Tuesday, February 17th, 2004
LEADING TEAMS MAKE FINAL
PREPARATIONS FOR QATAR RALLY
Qatar drivers challenge for National Championship honours; New co-driver for Al-Attiyah
DOHA (Qatar): Many of the Middle East's leading rally drivers have now arrived in Doha to make their final preparations for the NBKS 2004 Qatar International Rally, which gets underway near the Inter-Continental Hotel on West Bay Lagoon, north of the capital, on Thursday evening at 19.00 hrs.
Modern-day rally regulations permit teams to take a look at the special stages prior to the start of competitive action and each of the entrants have spent the last two days driving through the deserts to check the route and the terrain for any areas which could catch them out when the desert stage action gets underway in earnest on Friday morning.
~Concentrating during the 'recce' is vital,~ admitted international co-driver Keith Wake, who has made the short trip from Bahrain to take part in the event alongside Hassan Al-Sadadi.
~Each year rally organisers make changes to the special stages and the routes we use on the rallies. Even if you have been to the Qatar Rally several times, there are revised sections this year and many new stretches of special stage. We were permitted to check Friday's special stages on Monday and Saturday's route today (Tuesday), with a final run allowed on Wednesday morning to make sure our notes were precise.
~Last year the Qatar Rally took place after heavy rains in the region and there was a lot of standing water for the first time in many years. Tyre choice is then a vital factor. We have had some unpredictable weather this week as well. There were strong winds on Monday and this caused a dust storm and shifting sand. Deep patches of sand lying in sheltered areas can be dangerous when you are driving a rally car at speed, so we need to be vigilent and prepare thoroughly.~
~This year's rally has all the makings of being the best yet,~ admitted Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, the President of the QMMF and a former Qatar National Rally Champion. ~Several international teams and officials have now arrived in Doha. Our FIA Observer has flown in from Scandinavia and we have a results team from the UK and a leading Scottish FIA technical scrutineer.
~After several weeks of hard work by our team, the rally is suddenly upon us and we are looking forward to running our first event under the new FIA regulations for Middle East rallies. Powerful World Rally Cars are not permitted this year, so the competition in the showroom or Group N class is likely to be much closer.~
The event is also the most important round of the 2004 Qatar National Rally Championship and defending champion Hamed Al-Sowaidi lines-up alongside former domestic champion and reigning Middle East champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah in a bid to challenge for Qatar's domestic title.
~Last year we had 20 starters and 12 finishers,~ said clerk of the course Malcolm Neill. ~This year we are not a round of the Middle East Rally Championship, but we have 22 entries and are pleased with the positive response given by competitors so far. ~
There have been several late changes within the entry list. Defending champion and top seed Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah will team up with Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson for the first time, after winning last year's regional title and tackling this year's UAE and Sweden rallies with England's Steve Lancaster.
UK heart surgeon Raj Jutley has been replaced by his brother Harvinder at the wheel of a two-wheel drive Opel Corsa and faces competition in the 1600 category from Qatar's Mohammed Al-Marri and Syria's Abir Fudail.
Sponsored by Nasser Bin Khalid Al-Thani & Sons Group of Companies (NBKS), the 2004 event is a candidate for the 2005 Middle East Rally Championship and is being organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF). The outright winner stands to benefit from $US 7500.00 of an impressive prize fund, although cash prizes will be awarded to the top 10 finishers.
Competitive action on the 14-stage event gets underway with two runs through a timed 2.53 kms super special stage in Doha from 20.10 on Thursday evening. Servicing will be centralised throughout the weekend at the Qatar Sports Club in Doha.
For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2004 NBKS Qatar International Rally Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Al-Dana Room, Mezzanine Floor, Inter-Continental Hotel Doha, West Bay Lagoon, Doha, Qatar.
Tel: + (974) 4830079 and (974) 4830092, Fax: + (974) 4839555 (Attn: Room 118), Mobile: + 44 7831 123153