Al Attiyah survives a suspension scare to take Qatar Rally lead

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

For immediate release
Friday, February 20th, 2004


Second place for Al-Sowaidi; Bahrain's Sadadi blows engine;
Qatar's Nada Zaidan in superb ninth place; Abdulaziz loses second

DOHA (Qatar): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and new Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson coasted into a comfortable 4m 49s lead after eight special stages of the 2004 NBKS Qatar International Rally in Doha, today (Friday).

At the wheel of his Autotek Motorsport Subaru Impreza STi, Al-Attiyah extended a 3.6 second overnight advantage over Hamed Al-Sowaidi's Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution by another 12 seconds in the first desert stage, despite a suspension problem.

As the reigning FIA Middle East Champion attemped to edge further ahead over the boulder-strewn fourth section, fellow Qatar Rally Team driver Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari set the fastest time and moved into a surprise outright lead, when Al-Attiyah was forced to drive the entire stage with a broken rear trailing arm.

With his car repaired in service, Al-Attiyah attacked over the next loop of stages to the north of Doha and duly regained a comfortable lead by the end of the leg. ~I had a slow puncture on stage three and then we broke the rear arm,~ said Nasser. ~There was no chance to fix it and I knew that I was going to drop time. It could have been worse, but Abdulaziz had his own problems. Some of the sections were very rough and it is just not possible to push too hard.~

Al-Kuwari's Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 suffered from turbocharger problems, but he maintained second position when Al-Sowaidi sustained no less than three flat tyres in four stages. Al-Kuwari eventually retired on the final stage of the day.

~I was leading after four stages and to be beating Nasser was fantastic,~ said Abdulaziz, runner-up in last year's Middle East Group N series. ~But then I had a problem with the turbo charger in SS5 and we had no power at all for the sixth. It was very disappointing and frustrating today.~

Qatar's Abdullah Al-Kuwari, Syria's Khalid Haifa and England's David Scialom completed the top five, Bahrain's Abdulrahman Ghuloom was sixth and Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah finished seventh.

Nada Zaidan - the first Qatari lady ever to drive a car on an international rally - found her new sport more difficult than she imagined and her Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 was caught on the opening stage by German lady rival Heiderose Mossen.

But Nada found a quicker pace as the day progressed to move up to an excellent ninth place. Doha-based Mossen was in impressive form on her Qatar Rally debut and held eighth overall. Syrian lady driver Abir Fudail was 10th in the Renault Clio and first in the 1600 category ahead of Qatar's 11th-placed Mohammed Al-Marri.

The first retirement was Jordan's Mohammed Juma. His Subaru Impreza succumbed to mechanical problems in the second run through the Doha 'super special' stage. Kenyan Harvinder Singh Jutley entered an Opel Corsa in the 1600 category, but the engine lost compression at the start of the Tinbak stage and the Nairobi-based businessman was sidelined without turning another competitive wheel. Syrian Rally Team members Haitham Al-Yousifi, Amir Arnaout and Bashar Aboukoura also retired.

Bahrain's Hassan Al-Sadadi had been lying seventh overall at the start of Friday's stages, but his Subaru's engine failed on the road section after the third stage. ~I was feeling confident this morning and looking to push,~ said the multiple Bahrain National Champion. ~But that is the cruel luck you get sometimes in rallying.~

~We have proved that we have a very difficult rally and some tough stages,~ said Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, the President of the QMMF. ~To be successful here drivers need to be sensible and not take too many risks. They need to drive with restraint. Someone who can win here can win anywhere in the Middle East.~

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 (Saturday), crews head through the final six special stages on this year's event. The desert stages are located to the east of the Al-Khor road, north of Doha and competitive action begins at 10.45 hrs with a 10 kms run through the Lagoun stage. Surviving teams are due over the finish ramp at West Bay Lagoon from 15.45 hrs (Qatar time). The Qatar National Rally will also run 10 minutes behind the international event over Saturday's special stages.

2004 Qatar International Rally - unofficial positions after SS8:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza STi 1h 22m 00.3s
2. Hamed Al-Sowaidi (QA)/Michael Morrisey (IRL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 1h 26m 50.0s
3. Abdullah Al-Kuwari (QA)/Adel Hussain (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 1h 39m 39.1s
4. Khalifa Haifa (SYR)/Burhan Aboukoura (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 1h 40m 35.2s
5. David Scialom (GB)/Kevin Clark (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 5 1h 44m 18.4s
6. Abdulrahman Ghuloom (BAH)/Esther Ghuloom (BAH) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 5 1h 46m 02.5s
7. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Mohammed Hilal (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 1h 52m 19.9s
8. Heiderose Mossen (D)Marisa Kollenberg (D) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 3 2h 09m 30.0s
9. Nada Zaidan (QA)/Nadia Shnoudeh (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 2h 22m 05.9s
10. Abir Fudail (SYR)/Mansour Al-Hajri (QA) Renault Clio 2h 41m 55.0s
11. Mohammed Al-Marri (QA)/Khalid Al-Qahtani (QA) Opel Corsa 2h 41m 57.8s


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


Date issued: 20/02/2004

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