Jordanians aim to enter history books

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

For immediate release
Tuesday, May 18th, 2004


Farrah and Abu Samra head local contingent; His Majesty King Abdullah still holds the local record

AMMAN (Jordan): A Jordanian rally driver has never won the Jordan International Rally in the 22-year history of the Hashemite Kingdom's premier motorsport event. But a host of local drivers will be hoping to write their own piece of history when action gets underway in the Marlboro-supported event at 17.00 hrs on Thursday.

Leading the way will be Team Jordan's Amjad Farrah and co-driver Khaled Zakaria. Khaled is the only Jordanian co-driver to win the event outright, when he partnered multiple regional champion Mohammed Ben Sulayem to success in a Ford Focus WRC in 2001.

Farrah and Zakaria have made a good start to their 2004 FIA Middle East Rally Championship campaign, despite the setback of being excluded from the points in the Bahrain Rally back in March. Farrah lies joint fifth in the series, courtesy of fourth place in Abu Dhabi and sixth overall in Oman, but he knows how costly the Bahrain exclusion could be at the end of the season.

~It was a bitter disappointment to be excluded from the Bahrain points,~ said Farrah, who finished third overall in the Jordan Rally at the wheel of a Toyota Corolla GT back in 1993. ~I must accept the decision and move on. But I often think about the points I lost, which would have given me a great chance of being in contention for the title.~

Marouf Abu Samra has the best recent record of any Jordanian driver in his local rally and wheels out a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 this year. He was running well in 2003, before rolling his car in front of an international television crew, and is looking forward to challenging for the podium this week. Abu Samra finished third overall in the 1995 Jordan Rally at the wheel of a Ford Sierra Cosworth 4x4 and has been in contention for a top position on several occasions in recent years.

It has been 22 years since a Jordanian driver finished as runner-up in this rally. The 1981 Jordan Rally was won by the Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh in a Toyota Celica GT and Nabil Dirani took the runner-up spot in a Renault 17 Gordini. Third overall that year went to Ziad Bustami in a Datsun 160J. Haile Aguilar finished third in the Marriott-sponsored event two years later in his Toyota Corolla GT and Hani Bisharat was third in a Toyota in 1987, but only one Jordanian has ever made the podium on two occasions.

That honour belongs to His Majesty King Abdullah bin Hussain II, who finished third overall in an Opel Manta 400 back in 1986 and repeated the feat two years later. His Majesty King Abdullah was a keen supporter of rallying in Jordan during his early career and last competed across the deserts of the Hashemite Kingdom in a Ford Escort in 1996.

He was partnered on that occasion by a relatively unknown Welsh co-driver by the name of Philip Mills, who went on to join the Subaru World Rally Team and won the FIA World Rally Championship with Norway's Petter Solberg in 2003.

Behind Farrah and Abu Samra, former Jordan National Champion Faris Bustami is tackling his first rally of the season in a Mitsubishi. Bustami has been a regular on the local scene for many years and is seeded at nine alongside co-driver Imad Jumaa. Also returning to the fray and hoping to challenge for top honours are Ahmad Al-Daoud and Fahd Al-Naber in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7.

Bashar Bustami spent several years helping to organise the Jordan Rally and running logistics' operations for Toyota Team Saudi Arabia on rounds of the Middle East series. But he returns to the wheel this week and has recruited the services of 2003 Middle East champion co-driver Steve Lancaster to read the notes.

Other Jordanian drivers on the record-breaking entry list include Amir Najjar, Asem Aref, Mohammed Juma, Barkev Shadian, Tamer Tabbaa, Fakhri Bustami, Sami Al-Khub, Luay Abu-Kaff, Ahmed Mihyar and lady drivers Nancy Majali and Abir Batikhi.

Meanwhile, there was disappointing news from the defending Middle East Group N rally champion Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, who had hoped to be in contention to defend his title this year.

The Sharjah driver has endured a miserable start to the campaign and languished in 10th position in the Drivers' Championship standings after the Oman Rally, following an accident in Bahrain and mechanical problems in Muscat. As a result he has made the decision not to contest the Jordan Rally.


For further media information:
Neil Perkins or Sharif Baalbaki, 2004 Jordan International Rally Media Centre, RACJ, Ground Floor, Amman, Jordan, Tel: + (962) 6 5828736 or + (962) 6 5827603, Fax: + (962) 6 5825091, Mobile: + (962) 77 633609.
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com, www.racj.com

Date issued: 18/05/2004

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