MERC Entrants from 10 countries complete preparations for Qatar International Rally
Qatar International Rally, February 3-5, 2011
2011 FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), round 1 of 7
For immediate release
Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
TEAMS COMPLETE RECONNAISSANCE FOR
WEEKEND’S QATAR INTERNATIONAL RALLY
· Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari aims for podium in Mitsubishi Evo X
· 23 starters from 10 countries set for Qatar Rally challenge
· Defending champion Misfer Al-Marri aborts plans to run Skoda
DOHA (Qatar): International competitors from 10 countries have completed their two-day reconnaissance of the route for the 2011 Qatar International Rally, round one of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship. The event will start outside the headquarters of the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) in Salwa Road, Doha, at 09.00hrs on Friday morning.
A selection of the leading entrants from Qatar, the UAE, Syria, Kuwait, Lebanon, England, Italy, Jordan, Switzerland and Germany will join QMMF President Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah at the official pre-event press conference at the QMMF from noon on Thursday, before tackling 12 timed gravel stages in the desert to the south of Doha over the weekend.
Qatar event officials have moulded a revised route with the priority to ensure that the stages are smooth and challenging. “It’s so quick out there,” admitted co-driver Steve Lancaster, who is partnering the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi in the ex-Attiyah Ford Fiesta S2000 and bidding to win the Qatar International Rally for the first time since 2003. “There is less chance of picking up a puncture but we will really need to be careful.”
Defending regional rally champion Misfer Al-Marri had been hoping to debut a new Austrian-run Skoda Fabia S2000 on his home event, but budgetary issues have hit Al-Marri’s 2011 programme and he will not start as the top seed this weekend with Italian co-driver Nicola Arena.
That privilege now falls to multiple regional champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, who celebrated his recent Dakar Rally success by hosting a dinner for media and invited guests at the Millennium Hotel in Doha on Tuesday evening.
Another driver hoping to challenge for a podium and try to prevent Al-Attiyah from claiming an unprecedented ninth successive Qatar Rally triumph is Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari. The Qatar Rally Team youngster is confident that he can squeeze into the top three in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.
Meanwhile, Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh was forced to miss the first day of the recce after recruiting new Syrian co-driver Yazan Rijleh at the 11th hour. The duo were able to check both days of the route on Wednesday with special permission from QMMF officials and Saleh – the winner of the Kuwait Rally in 1984 and the Oman Rally in 1993 – will start at number nine in his Subaru Impreza.
“We are running a two-car team this time,” enthused Saleh. “Nancy Al-Majali and Nadia Shnoudeh, from Jordan, are using my other car, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.”
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, International Press Officer, 2011 Qatar International Rally, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@googlemail.com, www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)