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Bahraini drivers set to challenge for outright honours

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

For immediate release
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004

BAHRAINI DRIVERS SET TO CHALLENGE FOR OUTRIGHT HONOURS

Al-Sadadi rebuilds engine for Bahrain assault; Busmait back on track

MANAMA (Bahrain): Bahrain's Abdulrahman Ghuloom and his wife Esther have entered the 2004 Bahrain International Rally, the second round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, which starts in Manama on Thursday, March 11th.

The couple line-up alongside some of the region's leading drivers, no doubt spurred on by finishing an excellent fifth place overall in the recent Qatar International Rally. Abdulrahman missed the opening round of the Middle East series in Abu Dhabi in January, but has vowed to contest as many rounds as possible this season in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 5.

~I really enjoyed the event in Qatar,~ insisted Abdulrahman. ~It was not a round of the Middle East Championship, but it was well organised and I had a good result. Esther and I showed that we have the pace and the determination to be competitive, but I am under no illusions about the task ahead next week. We are expecting a very strong entry here.

~The new regulations have made the championship very close and exciting and a new GPS tracking system ensures that there is fair play for everyone.~

Bahraini team mate Hassan Al-Sadadi endured a miserable outing in Qatar. Alongside co-driver Keith Wake, his Subaru Impreza's engine expired on the first desert stage and the former Bahrain National Champion was not able to carry out vital testing before his home event in Bahrain. His engine has now been rebuilt and he is looking forward to competing against the likes of Oman's Hamed Al-Wahaibi and Qatar's Hamed Al-Sowaidi on equal terms.

Ebrahim Al-Busmait was the third Bahraini entrant in the recent Qatar Rally, but he failed to make the start when he was offered a deal to lend his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 to Qatar's Nada Zaidan, the first ever Qatari lady to tackle an international rally. She went on to finish in an excellent ninth position overall. Busmait takes charge of his Mitsubishi again next week and hopes to finish inside the top five on his home event.

Since the FIA Middle East Rally Championship's inception in 1983, two Saudi Arabian drivers have won the series outright. Mamdouh Khayat achieved success back in 1992 and Abdullah Bakhashab repeated the feat four years later. Ahmed Al-Sabban has been a regular in the regional series since driving a Group N Ford Escort RS Cosworth for the first time in 1993, but he is yet to achieve the dream of winning an event outright.

He lines up with Irish co-driver Killian Duffy once again and will not be hoping for a repeat of the disappointment which ultimately marred an excellent performance in Abu Dhabi. Sabban held sixth overall at the end of the first leg, but suffered gearbox problems near the end of the 10th stage and was forced to retire.

Based at the Movenpick Hotel on the island of Murharraq for the first time, next week's Bahrain International Rally also plays host to the Toyota Middle East Cup and a fleet of Toyota RAV4s, which are being entered on rounds of the series for a third successive season under the watchful eye of Abdullah Bakhashab. They will run shortly behind the international field.

~It has been all systems go over the last few days making sure that the road book is precise and the infrastructure is in place for the rally,~ said Clerk of the Course Elie Semaan. ~With the Formula One Grand Prix taking place in less than three weeks time, we have had twice the workload. Early season indications point to this being the strongest Middle East Championship for many years and we are delighted to be hosting the second round.~

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: 03/03/2004

For further information or assistance please contact:

NDP Publicity Services
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