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Revised Oman Rally joins MERC in April

2004 Oman International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3 of 8

For immediate release
Wednesday, March 17th, 2004

REVISED OMAN RALLY RETURNS TO FIA
MIDDLE EAST CHAMPIONSHIP IN APRIL

Modified format for new Oman event; Bumper Middle East entry expected

MUSCAT (Oman): The Oman International Rally returns to the FIA Middle East Rally Championship next month for the first time since 1998 and will be the third round of the increasingly-popular regional motorsport series.

The event will be held under the patronage of the Royal Oman Police and His Excellency Mohsin Al-Balushi, Under Secretary of Tourism, and takes place on April 21st/23rd. The headquarters and service park will be based at the Al-Araimi Complex in Qurum and special stages - such as Yitte, Arqi and Al-Hajer - have been retained from the successful candidate event which ran for the first time last October.

~We are very pleased that Oman is once again a round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship,~ said His Excellency Mohsin Al-Balushi. ~This event is important to Oman in terms of international exposure and we are looking forward to welcoming the teams from across the region and assisting in making the 2004 event a great success.~

The organisers have laid on a challenging and exciting three-day format for this year's Oman Rally. Clerk of the Course Wallid Mihyar has already worked on championship rounds in Syria, Qatar and Dubai and his experience has been bolstered by the appointment of Finland's Simo Lampinen as a senior rally advisor. Lampinen was a factory rally driver on rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship in the 1970s and is a senior organiser of the Finnish round of the WRC.

This year's Oman Rally will start with a two-kilometre 'super special' stage in the wadi behind the Al-Araimi complex at 17.00 hrs (local time) on Wednesday, April 21st. The special stage action begins the following morning when competitors head into the Hajar mountains for a further six timed sections in the Yitte, Arqi and Al-Hajer areas. Leg one draws to a close at the Al-Araimi Complex at 17.45 hrs.

The second and final leg takes place on Friday, April 23rd with a further seven timed stages, beginning with the first of two runs through the 25.13 kms Nidab stage at 09.52 hrs. After passing the Nafaa section for the first time crews embark upon a 14.15 kms section behind the international airport, which is expected to attract a sizeable crowd due to its close proximity to the city centre.

These three stages are repeated in the afternoon before a repeat run through the Al-Araimi 'super special' brings the competitive action to an end at 17.02 hrs. The podium has been scheduled for 18.15 hrs on Friday evening. In a route of 744.44 kms, 260.16 kms will be competitive.

~We have added several challenging and exciting stages to this year's rally,~ said Wallid Mihyar. ~To satisfy the Omani public's love of rallying, we have introduced a 'super special' stage in the heart of Muscat and expect several thousand spectators for both stages.~

New FIA regulations introduced at the start of this season have seen the banning of the use of powerful World Rally Cars, As a result of this rule change and improvements in stage security and event management, this year's series looks set to become the most exciting on record.

Last year's candidate Oman Rally developed into a duel between the reigning FIA Middle East rally champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Oman's leading driver Hamed Al-Wahaibi.
Al-Attiyah eventually took victory, but both drivers are likely to face serious competition next month from the likes of the UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, Qatar's Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, Cypriot Andreas Tsouloftas and the Saudi Arabian duo of Ahmed Al-Sabban and Essa Al-Dossari. Over 40 entries are expected.

Support for the first FIA international championship rally to be held in the Sultanate of Oman for six years comes from the Grand Hyatt, Muscat.

For further information about the 2004 Oman International Rally and available concessions for competitors, contact Anwar Somar at the Oman Automobile Association, Tel: + 968 510630, Fax: + 968 510276 or Jeremy Alston at INTeVENTS, PO Box 268, Ruwi 112, Sultanate of Oman, Tel: + 968 564325, Fax: + 968 564327, E-mail: jeremy.alston@intevents.com

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2004 Oman 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: 17/03/2004

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