MERC Qtel Qatar Rally gets 2010 season underway in Doha
Qtel Qatar International Rally
2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1
For immediate release
Thursday, January 21st, 2010
QTEL QATAR INTERNATIONAL RALLY GETS NEW MIDDLE
EAST RALLYING SEASON UNDERWAY ON DOHA CORNICHE
· Rally legend and FIA Vice-President Mohammed Ben Sulayem flags cars from start
· Technical problems mar new Ford Fiesta S2000 pre-rally preparations
· Thirty-two cars set for two days of Qatar desert action on new stages
DOHA (Qatar): Thirty-two of the Middle East’s top rally drivers are competing in the Qtel Qatar International Rally and were flagged away from the Doha Corniche start ramp on Thursday afternoon by Mohammed Ben Sulayem, FIA Vice-President for Sport and a nine-time former winner of the Qatar International Rally.
The Emirati was joined by Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, President of the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF), as the opening ceremony for the first round of the 2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship kick-started a new season of rallying in the Middle East.
Ben Sulayem later chaired a meeting of senior Middle Eastern officials and organisers in Doha, with a view to strengthening the region’s foothold in world motor sport.
With the exception of Qatar’s Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah and Jordan’s Faris Bustami, every driver on the original entry list reached the official start, but there were a series of late scares for Ford factory driver Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah in the new Ford Fiesta S2000s.
The situation was far from ideal for the 2004 regional champion’s preparations for the new season. The UAE driver’s Ford Fiesta S2000 had only been finished in the UK days before Thursday’s scrutineering slot at the QMMF and it developed a serious problem at the beginning of an unofficial shakedown in the Qatar desert on Wednesday afternoon. The cause of the fault took team mechanics and engineers around two hours to discover and a niggling minor sensor problem was discovered. A new part was duly sourced from Dubai.
The team later discovered a wiring fault on the new car and faced a race against time to get Khalid up and running before the ceremonial start. “I suppose these things happen with new cars,” said Al-Qassimi. “Better to have the problem before the rally than on the first stage.”
New Ford Fiestas had been plagued with minor homologation and technical issues in Monte Carlo earlier this week, where they are also competing in a round of the IRC, and team management looking after both Al-Qassimi’s and Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah’s cars were forced to heed new technical advice in advance of scrutineering for the Qtel Qatar International Rally on Thursday.
“I managed to spend half an hour or so behind the wheel of the new car yesterday and I was impressed,” said Al-Attiyah. “We have had a couple of teething problems today but that is to be expected with a new project. I wanted to use the Ford in the Middle East, because this is the car I will be using in the WRC and I wanted to unify the programmes. This rally will not be easy, but I will try my best.”
Earlier in the day, several leading drivers had joined Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah for the official pre-event press conference at the QMMF. “We are proud to host the first round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship and look forward to running what we hope will be a safe and successful rally,” said Al-Attiyah.
The QMMF President also took the opportunity to present Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah with a laurel wreath for his fine second place finish on last week’s Dakar Rally in South America and he too was presented with an award by Abou Obeda Mubarak El-Haj, general director of the visiting Sudan Automobile & Touring Club, for his support for the up-and-coming African federation.
Tomorrow (Friday) crews will tackle eight brand new desert special stages to the south of Doha. The service and administrative action will shift to the Al-Wakra stadium, which will host the service park and regroupings during the course of the two-day rally.
Top seed Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, who will be chasing his 35th MERC victory, will give the new Ford Fiesta S2000 its first competitive through the 19.22km Nabat Lusail stage at 09.03hrs and then tackle a special at Umm Al-Hal. Crews will then return to Al-Wakra for service before running through the Al-Waker and QMMF-backed third and fourth stages from 10.51hrs and 11.09hrs.
Nabat Lusail and Umm Al-Hal are repeated at 13.02hrs and 13.35hrs and day one draws to a close with second passes through Al-Waker and the QMMF stage at 14.50hrs and 15.08hrs. The first car is due into parc fermé at 17.00hrs.
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, International Press Officer, 2010 Qtel Qatar International Rally, Qatar Mobile: + 974 3682842, UK mobile + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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