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MERC contenders head for Jordan Rally

2004 Jordan International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 4 of 8

For immediate release
Tuesday, April 6th, 2004

CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS HEAD
FOR JORDAN RALLY SHOWDOWN

Group N regulations make series best yet; Qatar's Al-Attiyah set to return

AMMAN (Jordan): The major contenders for the 2004 FIA Middle East Rally Championship will all head to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on May 20th-22nd, as they bid to take the lead of the eight-round regional series at the mid-point break after the Jordan International Rally.

Last year's Jordan International was supported by Marlboro for a second season and ran through the heat of a July summer weekend. It was won by the Qatari driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and his British co-driver Steve Lancaster. They went on to win the regional title in a Subaru Impreza WRC at their first attempt and made an excellent start to their defence of the series by winning the opening round of the 2004 championship in Abu Dhabi back in January.

But Al-Attiyah and new Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson are now combining a Middle East Rally programme with rounds of the Production World Rally Championship (PWRC). There are two potential date clashes this season and Nasser was forced to miss the second round of the regional series in Bahrain last month to tackle an event in the north of Mexico.

It was a costly decision for the reigning champion, because the 16-stage Bahrain Rally was won by the Qatari's closest challenger Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, who heads into this month's third round of the series in Oman with an eight-point lead in the championship.

~All the series contenders will tackle the Oman Rally this month before they head to Jordan,~ said Jordan Rally Manager Ziad Louza. ~The series already looks like being the closest on record and we will have a strong indication of who the main challengers for the title are going to be by the end of May.

~There are several drivers capable of winning an event outright now that the regulations have been changed to allow only Group N cars to compete at the highest level. Jordan's Ajmad Farrah started his championship challenge well in Abu Dhabi and proved in Bahrain that he has the pace to match and beat the region's very best drivers. It is his first full season in the championship and he has already set a fastest stage time.~

The Royal Automobile Club of Jordan have received numerous enquiries for next month's three-day Marlboro-backed event, but are expecting the remainder of the entrants to register their intent to compete after the Oman International Rally on April 22nd-23rd.

Twenty-one of the original 42 starters finished last year's event and that was up on the previous year's finishing total of 17, on the rally won by the 14-times Middle East champion Mohammed Ben Sulayem in a Ford Focus WRC. ~It would be great if we could break the 50 starters' barrier this year,~ added Louza. ~That would be a real step forward.~

For further information about the 2004 Jordan International Rally and details about entry concessions contact Ziad Louza at the Royal Automobile Club of Jordan (RACJ), Tel: + 9626 5850626, Fax: + 9626 5818131, E-mail: racj@go.com.jo.

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2004 Jordan 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: 06/04/2004

For further information or assistance please contact:

NDP Publicity Services
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Shropshire TF10 7EN United Kingdom

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