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Top regional drivers arrive in Muscat for Oman Rally

2004 Oman International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3 of 8

For immediate release
Sunday, April 18th, 2004

TOP REGIONAL DRIVERS ARRIVE IN MUSCAT
FOR THIS WEEK'S OMAN INTERNATIONAL RALLY

Defending Middle East champion to arrive on Tuesday; recce begins today

MUSCAT (Oman): All but one of the Middle East's top rally drivers have arrived in Muscat to prepare for this weekend's Oman International Rally, the third round of the 2004 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, starting on Wednesday (April 21st).

The event is being held under the patronage of the Royal Oman Police and His Excellency Mohsin Al-Balushi, Under Secretary of Tourism. It is taking place as a championship round for the first time since 1998, although the Oman Automobile Association ran a candidate event last October. Competitive action will get underway with a timed two-kilometre 'Super Special' stage in the wadi behind the Al-Araimi Complex in Qurum at 17.00 hrs on Wednesday evening.

With the exception of defending Middle East rally champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, all the leading drivers in the region spent Sunday crossing the special stages which will make up the route for the opening competitive leg through the Hajar mountains on Thursday. Thirty-one international entrants will then take a closer look at Friday's special stages on Monday and Tuesday

But Al-Attiyah - who won the opening round of the series in Abu Dhabi in January and was forced to miss the second round of the series in Bahrain because of a date clash with the Rally of Mexico - will not arrive in Muscat until Tuesday. The 33-year-old Qatari has been competing with Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson in the Rally of New Zealand and was scheduled to leave Auckland straight after the finish of the third round of the FIA Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) on Sunday evening and head directly to Muscat.

Nasser's decision to skip the Bahrain International Rally was a costly one, as he bids to retain the regional title he won in an Autotek Motorsport-run Subaru Impreza WRC last December. One of his arch rivals Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi made the most of the opportunity to take victory and the lead in the championship. The UAE driver has been taking a close look at the stages over the last 24 hours, safe in the knowledge that he will start the Oman International Rally with an eight-point lead over Al-Attiyah in the championship.

Senior officials, team members and members of the media have been arriving in Muscat over the last 24 hours and have based themselves at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Documentation and the event's international media centre are based inside a new office within the Al-Araimi Complex.

~Many people have put a lot of hours of hard work into preparing for this event,~ said Clerk of the Course Wallid Mihyar. ~We hope that the competitors find the route challenging this year. It is fantastic for all concerned to see the Middle East rally series return to the Sultanate of Oman. We have introduced some new special stages, a centralised service park and the new 'super special' stage on Wednesday.~

The event is being organised by the Oman Automobile Association, under the chairmanship of Colonel Salem Ali Khalifa Al-Maskiry and an experienced organising committee. Key members include Assistant Clerk of the Course Ahmad Somar, Rally Co-ordinator Faisal Al-Qarny, Chief Safety Officer Moadh Haj Arab, Event Director Jeremy Alston and Competitor Liaison Officer Anwar Al-Zadjale.

For further information about the 2004 Oman International Rally, contact Ahmad Somar at the Oman Automobile Association, Tel: + 968 510630, Fax: + 968 510276 or Jeremy Alston, Tel: + 968 564325, Fax: + 968 564327, E-mail: jeremy.alston@intevents.com

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2004 Oman International Rally Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services,
Tel: + 968 564325, Fax: + 968 564327, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com/press

Date issued: 18/04/2004

For further information or assistance please contact:

NDP Publicity Services
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Shropshire TF10 7EN United Kingdom

Tel/Fax: +44 (0) 1952 825001
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