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Largest Bahrain Rally entry on record

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

For immediate release
Saturday, March 6th, 2004

BAHRAIN RALLY ATTRACTS LARGEST EVER
ENTRY AS MIDDLE EAST RALLY SERIES SURGES

Tausif Agha joins BMF; FIA announce changes for MERC in 2005

MANAMA (Bahrain): The 2004 Bahrain International Rally, the second round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, has attracted its largest ever entry of 37 cars.

The FIA's decision to prohibit the use of powerful World Rally Cars this season has caused a surge in interest in this year's eight-round championship, which began across the deserts of the UAE in January.

The Bahrain Motor Federation (BMF) - the organisers of the Bahrain Rally which was reinstated in the regional series in 2000 - have received a staggering response to the two-day event, which features a number of exciting changes and innovations.

Tausif Agha has joined the BMF as General Manager and brings over 19 years' motorsport experience to the event voted 'best in the region in 2002'. Agha has teamed up with officials and volunteers at the Manama-based Federation to put the final touches to preparations for next week's event.

~We are delighted with the response from international competitors,~ said Clerk of the Course Elie Semaan. ~The route will be challenging. The stages are quite technical and are easily accessible for spectators wishing to watch the action. The 'Tree of Life', the famous Bahraini landmark, can be seen from one of the stages.~

The region's leading drivers will be bidding to follow the UAE's Mohammed Ben Sulayem - who won the Bahrain Rally between 2000 and 2002 - over the winner's podium on Friday afternoon. Among the top seeded drivers are Hamed Al-Wahaibi, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and Ahmed Al-Sabban.

To ensure that this year's event offers slick organisation and a level playing field for every competitor, the Bahrain Motor Federation will utilise the latest electronic timing equipment to detect jump starts, in addition to the highly-acclaimed GPS tracking system to accurately monitor cars' progress over the special stages.

Based at the new Movenpick Hotel on the island of Murharraq, the event is supported by Zayani Motors and the Power Horse energy drink.

The FIA - the sport's world governing body - also announced this week that the FIA Middle East Rally Championship will adopt the new WRC points-scoring system in 2005, enabling drivers to score points on both legs one and two of rallies. Drivers who have problems and retire from the opening section will be permitted to rebuild their cars and compete in the second leg.

In addition, a decision was taken at a recent ASN meeting in Abu Dhabi to prohibit the use of non-homologated cars in 2005. Class A5 and A6 cars will be able to compete, but will not score points. Only Group N or 'showroom' category cars will score points in the championship.

~Coupled with the new GPS tracking system, this should ensure we have a very strong championship and we should begin to attract many more drivers from Europe and the rest of the world,~ said Derek Ledger, the FIA Rallies Commissioner for the Middle East region.

For further information about the 2004 Bahrain International Rally, 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: 06/03/2004

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