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Bumper entry sets out into Bahrain Rally on Thursday

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

For immediate release
Wednesday, March 10th, 2004

BUMPER ENTRY SETS OUT INTO
BAHRAIN RALLY ON THURSDAY

UAE's Sheikh Abdullah heads international entry; Oman's Al-Wahaibi returns; Kuwait's Al-Nejadi leads 1600 runners; Saudi Toyotas make first appearance of 2004

MANAMA (Bahrain): The UAE's Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and co-driver Gaby Khoury will lead an international 36-car entry from 11 countries into the Bahrain International Rally on Thursday morning.

Abdullah is the defending Middle East Group N champion and has won the showroom title in four of the last six seasons. He finished fifth overall on the opening round in Abu Dhabi and faces fierce competition over 16 timed special stages in this two-day second round of the 2004 regional series.

Standing in his way will be former Group N champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr in the Power Horse World Rally Team Subaru Impreza WRX. Sheikh Khalid was the runner-up on the opening round and is recovering well from a back injury sustained in a Dubai Rally accident last December.

~I have made a good start to the campaign,~ said Sheikh Khalid. ~But this will be more difficult. The stages in Bahrain are tight and technical and the competition will be closer. There are some quick drivers out there and we all have the same goal of success. These are exciting times for the Middle East Rally Championship.~

Oman's Hamed Al-Wahaibi makes his return to the series after several seasons in the FIA World Rally Championship. Al-Wahaibi is also a former Group N regional champion and is eyeing the goal of a maiden overall title. He teams up with Allan Harryman, the co-driving son of rallying legend Terry Harryman.

Cypriot Andreas Tsouloftas finished third overall in last year's championship and has swapped his Group A Mitsubishi for a Group N Evolution 7. Tsouloftas won last year's Syria Rally and relishes the stages on offer in Bahrain. ~They are not as open or fast as those we find in Jordan and the UAE and this is better for me,~ said the multiple Cyprus champion.

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari should benefit from a new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7, as he and Nasser Al-Kuwari lead a strong Qatari challenge. Lebanon's Michel Saleh wheels out a new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 for the first time, while a four-car Syrian Rally Team will be headed by Haitham Al-Yousifi and Abdulrahman Al-Hajri in a Subaru Impreza.

Three drivers represent the Kingdom of Bahrain. Abdulrahman Ghuloom and his wife Esther made an excellent start to their 2004 motorsport programme in Qatar recently and they are joined by multiple Bahrain national champion Hassan Al-Sadadi and his British co-driver Keith Wake in an Island Distribution-backed Subaru Impreza fitted with a new engine. Ebrahim Al-Busmait and Nadeem Mohammed complete the Bahraini line-up in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6.

Ahmed Al-Sabban will spearhead the Saudi Arabian challenge, which also features Essa Al-Dossary in a Mitsubishi, Farouk Ghurab in his Subaru Impreza and four Toyota Rally Team RAV4s, entered in a separate section behind the international rally.

~We have received a really strong international entry for this year's rally,~ said Sheikh Tariq Bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, President of the Bahrain Motor Federation. ~Many of the challengers for this year's title are here and it should be a close event.

~On behalf of the BMF I would like to thank all the officials and volunteers for making this event possible. These are exceptionally busy times with the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix in three weeks time, but everyone has put a lot of hard work into the rally.~

Reigning 1600 champion Meshal Al-Nejadi, from Kuwait, leads the two-wheel drive runners in his Citroen Saxo and will be hoping to extend his series lead over brother Essam. British heart surgeon Raj Jutley makes his first appearance of the season in a little Opel Corsa.

The event is supported by Zayani Motors and the Power Horse energy drink and is based at the Movenpick Hotel on the island of Murharraq. The official start takes place in the grounds of the hotel at 09.30 hrs (local time) on Thursday morning, before eight timed special stages south of Manama in the Salamabad, Mamatalla and Saqhir areas. The first leg draws to a close at 17.00 hrs (local time).

Leading Bahrain Rally starters (top 10):
1. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Gaby Khoury (UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX
3. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY)/Savvas Laos (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
4. Hamed Al-Wahaibi (OM)/Allan Harryman (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
5. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
6. Ebrahim Al-Busmait (BAH)/Nadeem Mohammed (BAH) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6
7. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ziad Chehab (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
8. Hassan Al-Sadadi (BAH)/Keith Wake (GB) Subaru Impreza
9. Haythem Al-Yousifi (SYR)/Abdulrahman Al-Hajri (QA) Subaru Impreza 10. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7

Overall championship positions after round 1 of 8
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 10 pts
2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 8 pts
3. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA) 6 pts
4. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 5 pts
5. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 4 pts
6. Essa El-Dossari (KSA) 3 pt
7. Hamed Al-Sowaidi (QA) 2 pts
8. Toufic Mitri (UAE) 1 pt

Manufacturers
1. Subaru 10
2. Mitsubishi 6

FIA Super 1600
1. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KWT) 10 pts
2. Essam Al-Nejadi (KWT) 8 pts

Ends

For further media information: Neil Perkins, 2004 Bahrain International Rally Press Office, NDP Publicity Services, Ground Floor Business Centre, Movenpick Hotel, Murharraq Town, Kingdom of Bahrain, Tel: + (973) 17460000, Fax: + (973) 17460041, Mobile: + (973) 36481738, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com www.ndp-publicity.com/press releases

Date issued: 10/03/2004

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