WRC Regional rally teams run in the shadow of WRC in Jordan Rally
JORDAN RALLY, April 1st-3rd, 2010
2010 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3
2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Sunday, March 28th, 2010
MERC RALLY TEAMS RUN IN THE SHADOW
OF WRC COUNTERPARTS IN JORDAN RALLY
· Al-Attiyah, Al-Qassimi and Al-Thani defend joint series lead in Jordan
· Farrah, Tantash, Bustami and Hijazi head Jordanian challenge
DEAD SEA (Jordan): While the spotlight falls on the main FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) contenders taking part in this weekend’s Jordan Rally, around 36 of the entire field of 65 drivers will take part in the third round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC).
This is the first time that the regional rally series has run alongside the WRC, although MERC drivers will only tackle legs two and three of the main event on Friday and Saturday.
The first running of the dual-status event has also forced officials at Jordan Motorsport to make several contingency plans in terms of results and timings, bearing in mind that five of the WRC field are also registered for the MERC.
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah is the joint leader of the regional rally series in his Skoda Fabia S2000, but he is also registered for the Super 2000 World Rally Championship (SWRC). The six-time regional champion clinched victory in Qatar in January with a Ford Fiesta S2000, but was forced to miss the Kuwait round of the series because of a date clash with Rally Mexico. He was able to carry out a pre-event test with other SWRC runners on Sunday.
Al-Attiyah has won 35 rounds of the regional series – a feat only surpassed by Mohammed Ben Sulayem (60) – and will tackle Thursday’s special stages with other SWRC runners and runs the risk of damaging his car before the MERC gets underway on Friday morning.
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi has retired his Kronos Peugeot 207 S2000 from the opening two rounds and the pointless Saudi is in dire need of a strong finish in Jordan if he is to add to the solitary MERC win he took in Syria last season.
Jordanians, Amjad Farrah and Mazan Tantash, are also tackling the WRC event and are registered to score points in the regional series. Farrah won the Jordan Rally in 2004 and is the only local driver ever to win a round of the championship.
The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi will continue the test and development of the new Ford Fiesta S2000 by running as top seed in the MERC category. Al-Qassimi scored maximum points by taking his seventh MERC victory in Kuwait earlier this month. He won the Jordan Rally in 2007 and is sure to be chasing a podium finish on Saturday afternoon now that the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) have backed a decision for Al-Qassimi to push for a first regional title since 2004.
Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri finished second in last year’s regional championship and is seeded at two in an Autotek Subaru. The Doha-based driver has never won a round of the series, but has eight points after two rounds and is merely two points off the three-way tie for the lead held by Al-Attiyah, Al-Qassimi and Qatar’s Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani. Al-Thani was regional champion in 1993 and scored his first podium finish since the mid-1990s with third overall in Qatar.
The UAE’s Rashid Al-Ketbi is the fastest driver in the Middle East never to win a round of the championship. He lies joint fourth in the series on eight points and is more than capable of pushing his Skoda Fabia S2000 to a top finish over the demanding stages in the Dead Sea area.
Jordanians offer strength in depth to the MERC entry: former national champion Faris Bustami is seeded at nine and Faris Hijazi, Ahmad Mihyar, lady driver Abir Al-Batikhi, Issa Abu Jamous, Rami Hijazi, Hani Al-Baset and Ahd Eid round off the strong local contingent.
Drivers from Palestine, Kuwait, Lebanon and Abu Dhabi bolster an entire field of drivers from 26 nations, making the Jordan Rally one of the most international sporting events of the year.
Tomorrow (Monday) crews taking part in the WRC will be permitted to carry out their first day of reconnaissance on some of the 21 special stages, totalling 339.48 competitive kilometres, which will guide teams to the finish at the Dead Sea on Saturday afternoon. The three-day event gets underway with a ceremonial start in Jerash from 11.00hrs on Thursday.
2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship – positions after round 2
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 10 pts
1. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 10 pts
1. Sheikh Hamad Bin Eid Al-Thani (QA) 10 pts
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 8 pts
4. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE) 8 pts
6. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QA) 6 pts
7. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 5 pts
7. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 5 pts
7. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT) 5 pts
10. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA) 4 pts
11. Mufeed Mubarak (KT) 3 pts
12. Mohammed Al-Marri (QA) 2 pts
12. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT) 2 pts
1. Giovanni Bernacchini (I) 10 pts
1. Michael Orr (GB) 10 pts
1. Arif Yousef (UAE) 10 pts
4. Nicola Arena (HKJ) 8 pts
4. Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) 8 pts
6. Nicky Beech (GB) 6 pts
7. Steve Lancaster (GB) 5 pts
For further media information:
2010 Jordan Rally Press Office, Main Media Centre, King Hussein Ben Talal Convention Centre, Dead Sea, Jordan, Mobile: + 962 79 6548882 or Mobile: + 962 79 6124632, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com