MERC All systems go for Middle East's top drivers in Syria

2010 Syrian International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 6 of 8

For immediate release
Wednesday, October 6th, 2010


Twenty-four teams provisionally set to start sixth round of MERC
The heat is on for Qatar’s Al-Attiyah and UAE’s Khaled Al-Qassimi

DAMASCUS (Syria): The Middle East’s leading rally drivers completed their two-day reconnaissance for the Syrian International Rally, round six of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, on Wednesday afternoon. The event gets underway with a ceremonial start in downtown Damascus from 18.00hrs on Thursday.

The Syrian Automobile Club has laid on a revised two-day route of challenging gravel special stages in the deserts around Sednaya, the historic mountainous town situated in the scenic hills above Damascus. The Syrian event has been an integral part of the region’s off-road motor sport series since 2001, but has switched to an October date for the first time.

The provisional 24 starters on the entry list can expect dry, dusty conditions in the Syrian deserts on Friday (October 8) and Saturday (October 9), but temperatures in Sednaya are expected to fall sharply at night.

There will be no margin for error for either Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah or the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi. To retain his regional title, Al-Attiyah knows that he must win at all costs in Syria.

He trails series leader Misfer Al-Marri by 14 points and there are only a possible 30 points left for the taking if he manages to take outright wins in Sednaya on Saturday afternoon and then in Cyprus next month and Dubai in December.

Assuming he was to take a hat-trick of wins, Al-Marri only requires 17 more points from the three remaining rallies to become only the fourth Qatari driver in history to win the prestigious regional title – Saeed Al-Hajri won in 1984 and 1985, Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani clinched victory in 1993 and Al-Attiyah has won six times in the last seven years.

“I am in a good position and know that I must concentrate on reaching the finish and scoring points,” said Al-Marri. “I don’t need to win the rallies to win the title.”

Al-Qassimi has a slightly better chance of winning the title for a second time. The Emirati trails Al-Marri by 10 points and the Qatari will need to amass a further 21 points to prevent the Abu Dhabi-based Ford Fiesta S2000 driver from repeating his 2004 triumph. That statistic assumes that Al-Qassimi is capable of winning the three remaining rallies.

Qatar’s Khaled Al-Suwaidi also has an outright chance of claiming the title. He finds himself in a similar position to Al-Attiyah in what has become one of the most fascinating championship showdowns in the history of Middle East rallying.

Even sixth-placed Qatari Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani and Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi still have a mathematical chance of lifting the title. It would be a stunning feat for Al-Thani to win the series for a second time after a gap of over 17 years.

It is quite likely that Al-Marri could win the regional championship without taking an individual rally win. This feat first occurred in the championship back in 1992, when Saudi driver Mamdouh Khayat was a model of consistency and won the series without finishing higher than second overall.

The official start will be broadcast live on Syrian satellite television and Aldunia television and the event is taking place under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism with the full support of MTN – official sponsor, SMI, the Sheraton Ma’arat Sednaya, Jupiter Rent-a-Car, Zaman Alkhair, Aldunia television and Al-Madina radio.


For further media information:
Emad Sankar, Arabic Press Officer, Tel: + 963 11 232 3706, Fax: + 963 11 231 2785, Mobile: + 963 944 811129, E-mail: emad.sankar@gmail.com
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, International Press Officer, 2010 Syrian International Rally, Tel/Fax: + (44) 1952 825001, Syrian mobile: + 963 945 777151, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153 E-mail: ndppublicity@googlemail.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)



Date issued: 06/10/2010

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