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Qatar International Rally gets underway in Doha today

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

For immediate release
Thursday, February 19th, 2004

QATAR INTERNATIONAL RALLY GETS UNDERWAY
WITH SHORT 'SUPER SPECIAL' STAGE NEAR DOHA

Al-Attiyah confident; International crews praise revised stage format in Qatar

DOHA (Qatar): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and new Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson led the international field away from the start of the 2004 NBKS Qatar International Rally this evening (Thursday), adjacent to the Inter-Continental Hotel on West Bay Lagoon, north of Doha.

Teams then tackled the first section of the opening leg of the three-day Middle East candidate rally, by twice crossing a 2.35 kms 'super special' stage at West Bay Lagoon. The spectator stage attracted a sizeable crowd, although both the official start and the competitive action took place after dark.

~My new co-driver has settled in really well,~ said Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah. ~He has a lot of experience in the World Rally Championship and has sat alongside both Colin and Jimmy McRae in the past. On the recce he was able to give me a lot of valuable information and this should be useful in the deserts on Friday and Saturday.

~The new stages are excellent. They are well graded and quite technical. That should suit my driving style down to the ground. I am gaining more experience all the time. After my drive in Sweden, it is good to be back behind the wheel in a gravel rally, because the next round of the PWRC is on a loose surface in Mexico next month.~

Bahrain's Abdulrahman Ghuloom also acknowledged the hard work put in this year by rally officials at the QMMF. ~The recce was really enjoyable this year,~ said Ghuloom. ~Sometimes you come to rallies and it is difficult to follow the track. But the stages here have been well marked out, nicely graded and should be enjoyable to drive over this weekend.~

~This is my first ever desert rally,~ enthused British debutant David Scialom. ~I have competed in rallies in Slovakia and Portugal, but never in the Middle East and never in the desert. I really enjoyed the recce. The terrain is so totally different to Europe. Speeds are likely to be a lot higher and a good preparation is crucial.~

~These are very exciting times for motorsport in Qatar,~ said Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, the President of the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation, at today's pre-event press conference at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Doha.

~Our Moto GP circuit is coming together at great speed. It's hard to imagine now that the area was just a patch of desert six months ago. Our entire workforce of around 800 people is doing a fantastic job to ensure that we are ready well in advance of the Qatar Moto GP on October 2nd.

~This year's rally has also shown marked improvements and our drivers are beginning to establish themselves on the world stage. Nasser Saleh is a case in point. He won the UAE Rally and drove a superb race in Sweden to finish seventh in his category, even though it was his first race on snow and ice. He probably has the most exciting motorsport programme of any driver in the world at the present time.

This year's Qatar Rally will be very tough,~ added Nasser. ~It is easy to get a puncture and just to finish will be to succeed for some of the drivers here. The stages are very similar to the Acropolis Rally in Greece. They can be hard on the cars.~

Nada Zaidan is the first ever Qatari lady in history to take part in an international rally. She and Jordanian female co-driver Nadia Jabra Shnoudeh will tackle a desert special stage for the first time on Friday morning. ~I am looking forward to the challenge,~ said Zaidan, a medical operations nurse in Doha. ~I follow many sports and take part in archery competitions in Qatar. But this will be so very different.~

This year's Qatar Rally is sponsored by Nasser Bin Khaled Al-Thani & Sons Group of Companies (NBKS), with additional support from the 15th Asian Games Doha 2006, Qatar Petroleum, the Qatar National Bank, the Inter-Continental Hotel Doha and the Qatar Automobile Company (QAC).

Tomorrow (Friday) teams tackle the second section of the first leg - six timed special stages across the deserts to the north of Doha. Competitive action begins with a 20.54 kms run through the revised Tinbak stage, with the first car due at 08.33 hrs.

Cars then head into a 26.04 kms run across the tracks in the Abu Thayla region at 09.08 and these sections are repeated later in the morning. Two passes through a 22.75 kms special at Umm Slal bring the first leg's competitive action to a close.

Ends

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, Fax: + (974) 4830092, Mobile: + (974) 5305984
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com/press releases

www.qmmf.com

Date issued: 19/02/2004

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