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2004 Bahrain Rally set to be the closest for years

2004 Bahrain International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 2 of 8

For immediate release
Friday, February 27th, 2004

BAHRAIN RALLY SET TO BE
THE CLOSEST FOR YEARS

Top GCC drivers head for Manama; Al-Attiyah skips event to go to Mexico

MANAMA (Bahrain): The 2004 Bahrain International Rally, the second round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship which starts in Manama on March 11th, is likely to be the most exciting since the two-day gravel event was reinstated into the regional series in 2000.

Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah leads the eight-round series after January's UAE International Rally. His hectic international rally programme means that there will be inevitable date clashes and the winner of the recent Qatar Rally heads for Mexico next week to take part in a round of the FIA Production World Rally Championship.

His absence leaves the door wide open for the UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and new Ulster co-driver Michael Orr to improve on the second position they achieved in Abu Dhabi at the wheel of their Power Horse World Rally Team Subaru Impreza STi.

Sheikh Khalid is still recovering from a serious back injury sustained in an accident during December's Dubai international Rally, but was not in too much discomfort on the opening round and is determined to keep his championship challenge firmly on track.

~This year is developing into one of the most exciting on record,~ said Sheikh Khalid. ~The new GPS tracking system is making sure that the events are a level playing field for everyone. We made a good start to the year and collected eight points. Now we have to keep the momentum going in Bahrain.~

Standing in Sheikh Khalid's way will be his half-brother Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, the defending Group N champion and the runner-up in last year's Middle East series, in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII. Abdullah has won the Group N title in four of the last six seasons and is determined to keep a firm grip on his title.

~I have the most experience of any driver in Group N,~ said Abdullah. ~We won the title last year and now that the championship is for Group N cars I do not intend to let go of the title without a fight.~

But one man will be determined to upset the applecart on his return to the regional series after a number of years taking part in rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship in Group N cars. Oman's Hamed Al-Wahaibi is a former Middle East Group N champion and one of the fastest drivers in the region. He was a fascinated spectator on the UAE Rally and has been busily piecing together a deal to tackle the remaining seven rounds of the series with British co-driver Nicky Beech.

Former British Super 1600 champion Justin Dale placed an entry to tackle the recent UAE Rally in a Subaru Impreza, but was not able to take his place at the start. He has tackled events in Dubai and Qatar in the past, but withdrew from the 2003 series to take his place in the ill-fated Hyundai World Rally Team. Dale plans to spectate in Bahrain before kick-starting his championship challenge in Oman in April.

~We have received entries from many of the leading stars in the Gulf,~ admitted Sheikh Tariq Bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, President of the Bahrain Motor Federation. ~The new rule changes imposed on the Middle East Championship this season have made sure that the competition is fair and likely to be very exciting.~

For further information about the 2004 Bahrain International Rally and available concessions for competitors, contact the Bahrain Motor Federation, PO Box 26381, Manama, Bahrain, Tel: + (973) 1740 6444, Fax: + (973) 1740 6555, E-mail: elie@brc.com.bh or tausif@brc.com.bh

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2004 Bahrain 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: 27/02/2004

For further information or assistance please contact:

NDP Publicity Services
Holly House, Station Road, Newport,
Shropshire TF10 7EN United Kingdom

Tel/Fax: +44 (0) 1952 825001
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