MERC Saudi Arabia's Sharqia Rally gets underway on Tuesday

Sharqia Rally 2010
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 4 of 8

For immediate release
Monday, April 19th, 2010



·         Qatar’s Al-Attiyah and Al-Marri lead MERC points’ standings

·         Volcanic ash cloud over Europe causes chaos for rally attendees

·         Yazeed Al-Rajhi heads Saudi contingent in his Peugeot 207 S2000

HALF MOON BAY (Saudi Arabia): The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes its place in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship for the first time tomorrow (Tuesday), when the Sharqia Rally gets underway with a ceremonial start and timed super special stage in the Al-Khobar region of the Eastern Province.


A provisional 30 crews will tackle the three-day, fourth round of the regional rally series, which has been organised by the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF) under the patronage of HRH Prince Mohamed bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Governor of the Eastern Province and the Chairman of the Higher Committee for the Sharqia Rally.


Several leading European co-drivers, including Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi’s navigator Michael Orr (who was stranded at London Heathrow after travelling from Belfast), Nick Beech, Steve Lancaster, and numerous mechanics were unable to travel to Saudi Arabia because of the volcanic dust cloud, which has caused unprecedented disruption to air travel across Europe.


Italian co-driver Nicola Arena and Frenchman Matthieu Baumel were fortunate to travel before the airspace shutdown was enforced and Yazeed Al-Rajhi’s Kronos team were also able to reach Al-Khobar from Belgium.


But, on a day when the Ford factory team were forced to return to the UK via a 48-hour coach journey from the Rally of Turkey in Istanbul and WRC officials were left stranded in Turkey or seeking coach or rail transport across Europe, the Saudi event will be a crucial pointer to the direction of this year’s regional title.


Top seeds for the Sharqia event are Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and his Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini. The Qatari is chasing a 36th regional rally victory and will be hoping to move ahead of Misfer Al-Marri in the points’ standings as he reverts to a Ford Fiesta S2000 in Saudi Arabia.


Both Qatari drivers are currently tied for the lead in the Drivers’ Championship on 16 points apiece, although Al-Attiyah was facing a race against time to reach Al-Khobar after his own fair share of transportation issues and was very doubtful to make the start on Monday.


Al-Rajhi clinched his second MERC victory in Jordan recently to open his challenge for a maiden regional title. The Saudi would dearly like to win his home event for a second time in three seasons and drives his usual Kronos Peugeot 207 S2000. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, who will team up with the UAE’s Wael Marjan as a contingency plan, and Qatar’s Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani also have 10 points apiece after three rounds of the eight-event series.


Ahmed Al-Sabban, Abdulhadi Al-Qahtani, Farhan Al-Ghaleb, circuit racer Saeed Al-Mouri and A. Saleh bolster the local contingent, while veteran Michel Saleh represents Lebanon.


Mufeed Mubarak, Dawood Al-Gharablly, Meshal Al-Nejadi, Abdullah Al-Hajri, Farouk Ashkanani, Meshari Al-Thafiri and Eid Faleh head the Kuwaiti challenge. Amjad Farrah lies sixth in the championship after four rounds with his Subaru Impreza and is the sole Jordanian seeded at eight. The event will also mark the first appearance of a Palestinian team in Saudi Arabia; Jaber Rami Daoud and Fares Alouh will take part in the Sharqia event in a Fiat Stilo.


Qatari drivers frequent the lower reaches of the entry list, with Khalid Al-Suwaidi seeded at six and currently lying ninth in the title race with six points. Jaber Al-Marri, Mohammed Al-Marri, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, Abdullah Al-Rabban and Mubarak Al-Hajri complete the Qatar line-up, which will run in the presence of QMMF president Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, a special guest of the SAMF’s Mishaal Al-Sudairy this week.


“We welcome all our overseas participants to the Sharqia Rally and sympathise with those who were unable to reach Al-Khobar because of the travel situation in Europe,” said SAMF president Mishaal Al-Sudairy. “We also welcome Khaled Qadoura, the President of the Palestinian Motor Federation, as our guest and to watch a team from Palestine compete in Saudi Arabia for the first time.”


Tuesday’s opening super special stage gets underway at 15.24hrs (local time) and will be followed by six timed desert stages on Wednesday and a further six on Thursday.


2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship

Drivers’ Championship – after round 3 of 8

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)                          16 pts              

1. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)                                             16 pts              

3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)                               10 pts

3. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)               10 pts

3. Sheikh Hamad Bin Eid Al-Thani (QA)                 10 pts

6. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)                                        9 pts                

7. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE)                               8 pts

7. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT)                                            8 pts                

9. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QA)                             6 pts

10. Michel Saleh (RL)                                             5 pts

10. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)              5 pts

12. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA)                           4 pts                

13. Mufeed Mubarak (KT)                             3 pts

14. Mohammed Al-Marri (QA)                             2 pts

14. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT)                                 2 pts

14. Dawood Al-Gharablly (KT)                           2 pts

17. Jaber Al-Marri (QA)                                             1 pt



1. Giovanni Bernacchini (I)                           16 pts              

1. Nicola Arena (I)                                             16 pts              

3. Matthieu Baumel (F)                                            10 pts

3. Michael Orr (GB)                                         10 pts

3. Arif Yousef (UAE)                                       10 pts

6. Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE)                              8 pts

7. Nick Beech (GB)                                         6 pts

8. Steve Lancaster (GB)                                      5 pts

8. Jake Carlin (GB)                                         5 pts



For further media information:

Neil Perkins, 2010 Sharqia Rally International Press Liaison, NDP Publicity Services, Tel: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: ndppublicity@googlemail.com. www.ndp-publicity.com.

Arabic: Firas Nimri, Arabic Press Liaison, Mobile: + 9662 777 282000, E-mail: firas@nimri.com
http://www.sharqiarally.com/ or http://rally.ficr.it


Date issued: 19/04/2010

For further information or assistance please contact:

NDP Publicity Services
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Shropshire TF10 7EN United Kingdom

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