MERC Middle East title rivals set for fierce battle across the Syrian desert

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

For immediate release
Thursday, October 7th, 2010


Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri hopes to close in on title dream
Ahmad Hamsho leads Syrian challenge on home rally
International field from 11 nations set for Syrian Rally
Lebanon’s Dana Asaf flies the female flag in Syria

SEDNAYA (Syria): Ahmad Hamsho and Haitham Al-Yousefi will lead the Syrian challenge against the region’s top rally drivers when competitive action in the 10th Syrian International Rally, round six of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, gets underway on Friday morning.

Local support will naturally side with the leading Syrian duo, but regional rally followers will be monitoring the battle between Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri, Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Khaled Al-Suwaidi and the UAE’s Sheikh Khaled and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi.

Even though eight drivers can mathematically still win the title, this quintet is gunning to set the Syrian desert stages alight with some ferocious driving. Championship leader Misfer Al-Marri starts at number two, behind Al-Attiyah and ahead of Khaled Al-Qassimi, and is thanking his lucky stars that his Subaru’s gear stick snapped during a test on Wednesday afternoon rather than on the start line of the first stage.

Khaled Al-Qassimi is chomping at the bit to set the pace. “We know the situation and know what we have to do this weekend,” said Al-Qassimi, who will make a decision on whether to enter the Cyprus Rally following the outcome of the Syrian event on Saturday evening. “I need to score points for first or second and, for sure, it would help if Misfer did not finish.”

Al-Attiyah also realises that it is a matter of winning at all costs in his new Ford Fiesta S2000. “I will be racing with Khaled,” said the defending regional champion. “I have to beat him, first of all, and then we can look at the position afterwards. This rally does not suit Group N cars, so that should give us a better chance to take the win.”

The Syrian Automobile Club have laid on two days of revised special stages in the deserts around Sednaya and international competitors now know that a thorough two-day reconnaissance was critical. “We race through each stage twice and one we will do in reverse a third time,” said Irish co-driver Michael Orr. “They are challenging stages and may be quite hard on the cars, so we will need to be cautious as well as fast. It’s about finding the fine balance.”

Neighbouring Lebanon is represented by veteran driver Michel Saleh, navigator Kamal Khoder and female co-driver Dana Asaf, who is sitting alongside Kuwaiti driver Mizher Al-Tannak in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX.

“I have competed in five or six rallies in Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, but this is my first major challenge since the Qatar International a few years ago,” enthused Asaf, the only female on the entry list this year.

Mufeed Mubarak and Essam Al-Nejadi head the Kuwaiti contingent, Mehmet Orcun Polat represents Turkey and Jordanian co-drivers Ziad Masannat, Ata Al-Hmoud and Ala Al-Hmoud represent the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the absence of a driver on this occasion.

There are several additional entries from Qatar and co-drivers from Northern Ireland, Italy, England and Belgium boost the international feel of rally headquarters in Sednaya.

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.

Tomorrow (Friday) crews will tackle seven timed special stages in a route laid on by clerk of the course Hani Shaban and his team at the Syrian Automobile Club.

Action begins with the punishing 23.85km MTN stage at 08.38hrs and is followed by a run through the desert near the historic biblical village of Maaloula from 10.11hrs.

A short Jupiter-backed stage guides crews to a service and regroup at Deir Ateyah and the three specials are repeated on Friday afternoon. A punishing 25.35km special - sponsored by the host Sheraton Ma’arat Sednaya - rounds off the first day’s action from 14.53hrs.

Top 10 starters
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I) Ford Fiesta S2000
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Nicola Arena (I) Subaru Impreza
3. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Ford Fiesta S2000
4. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer
5. Ahmad Hamsho (SYR)/Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer
6. Khaled Al-Suwaidi (QA)/Nick Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza
7. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ziad Massanat (HKJ) Subaru Impreza
8. Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani (QA)/Arif Yousef Mohammed (UAE) Subaru Impreza
9. Mufeed Mubarak (KT)/Saad Al-Mulaifi (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer
10. Haitham Al-Yousefi (SYR)/Ata Al-Hmoud (HKJ) Subaru Impreza

2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship - after round 5 of 8
Drivers’ Championship

1. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 30 pts
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 20 pts
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA) 20 pts
4. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 16 pts
4. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QA) 16 pts
6. Sheikh Hamad Bin Eid Al-Thani (QA) 14 pts
7. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 13 pts
8. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT) 11 pts
9. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 9 pts, etc

Co-drivers’ Championship
1. Nicola Arena (I) 30 pts
2. Matthieu Baumel (F) 20 pts
2. Michael Orr (GB) 20 pts
4. Giovanni Bernacchini (I) 16 pts
5. Arif Yousef Mohammed (UAE 15 pts
6. Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) 14 pts
7. Steve Lancaster (GB) 13 pts
8. Nick Beech (GB) 11 pts
9. Jake Carlin (GB) 5 pts

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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: 07/10/2010

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