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MERC Qatar International Rally gets underway at QMMF on Friday morning

Qatar International Rally
2012 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1

For immediate release
Thursday, January 26th, 2012

QATAR INTERNATIONAL RALLY SET TO KICK-START 2012 FIA 
MIDDLE EAST RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ON FRIDAY MORNING

· Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah bids for 10th successive Qatar Rally win
· Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari to debut new Mini S2000 in MERC

DOHA (Qatar): The two-day Qatar International Rally gets underway at the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) in Doha on Friday morning and kick-starts a new season of FIA Middle East Rally Championship action.

The seven round series takes in events in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus and Dubai and annually attracts the cream of off-road drivers from around the Levant and Gulf regions.

Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah will be bidding for a 10th successive victory on his home event at the wheel of a Peugeot 207 S2000. The Qatari has won 42 regional championship rallies in his illustrious career and starts as a clear favourite to make it 43 victories when the event draws to a conclusion at the QMMF on Saturday afternoon from 15.35hrs. His Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini will be aiming to claim his 14th MERC win.

Misfer Al-Marri was the 2010 regional rally champion and is relishing his return to the hot seat after a one-year absence. “To be honest I settled back into the car really well at the test session before the rally,” admitted the Qatari, who will be partnered by Italy’s Nicola Arena. “The Lancer R4 feels powerful, stable and I am sure it will be competitive. Obviously Nasser will be the man to beat and the new Mini (S2000) looked particularly impressive over jumps on fast terrain when I saw it out testing.”

The new Prodrive-built Mini will be in the hands of Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, who starts at number three alongside navigator Nasser Al-Kuwari. Qatar’s Mubarak Al-Hajri has a natural flair for speed and actually led the Qatar Rally after leg one last year. The Subaru driver is quietly confident that he too can reach the podium with UAE-based co-driver Arif Yousef Mohammed.

Qatar’s Jaber Al-Marri and Khalid Al-Suwaidi are seeded at six and seven in their respective Mitsubishis and will be followed over the start podium by the Kuwaiti duo of Meshal and Essam Al-Nejadi in a pair of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IXs.

Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah and Lebanese co-driver Ramy Menham wheel out a Subaru Impreza and Kuwait’s Fahad Ashkanani rounds off the top 10 starters in his Mitsubishi. Former MERC front-runner Nicholai Georgiou returns to the series and follows Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thafiri over the start ramp in a hired Mitsubishi.

The Jordanian duo of Rasheed Alaa and Hani Al-Bast have entered a pair of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIIIs and the all-female crew of Turkey’s Burcu Cetinkaya and Cicek Guney will be locked in their own battle for feminine supremacy with Germany’s Edith Weiss and her Greek navigator Vicky Psarali at the rear of the entry list.

Tomorrow (Friday) teams tackle three special stages, repeated twice, starting with the 15km Mekaines stage from 10.18hrs. A run through the demanding Salwa special follows at 10.41hrs and the QMMF-backed third stage of 26.15km gets underway at 11.04.

After a regrouping stop and service at the Al-Wakra football stadium, the three timed tests are repeated at 14.07hrs, 14.30hrs and 14.53hrs on Friday afternoon.

2012 Qatar International Rally – list of starters:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Peugeot 207 S2000
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QAT/Nicola Arena (ITA) Mitsubishi Lancer R4
3. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Mini S2000
5. Mubarak Al-Hajri (QAT)/Arif Yousef Mohammed (UAE) Subaru Impreza
6. Jaber Al-Marri (QAT)/Kamal Khoder (LBN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
7. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QAT)/Adel Hussein Abdullah (QAT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
8. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KWT)/Ahmed Al-Khass (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
9. Essam Al-Nejadi (KWT)/Anwar Al-Shraah (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
10. Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Ramy Menhem (LBN) Subaru Impreza
11. Fahad Askanani (KWT)/Husain Ghadhanfar (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII
12. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KWT)/Mubarak Al-Thafiri (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
14. Nicholai Georgiou (LBN)/Nabil Njeim (LBN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
18. Rasheed Alaa (HKJ)/Ramzi Mansour (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
19. Burcu Cetinkaya (TUR)/Cicek Guney (TUR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
20. Hani Al-Bast (HKJ)/Ata Al-Hmoud (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII
21. Edith Weiss (GER)/Vicky Psarall (GRE) Subaru Impreza

2012 Qatar International Rally – timetable of events
Friday, January 27

09.00hrs Start, QMMF
10.18hrs SS1 Mekaines
10.41hrs SS2 Salwa
11.04hrs SS3 QMMF
12.34hrs Regroup and Service A, Al Wakra football stadium
14.07hrs SS4 Mekaines 2
14.30hrs SS5 Salwa 2
14.53hrs SS6 QMMF 2
16.03hrs Service B, Al-Wakra football stadium

Ends

Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, International Press Officer, 2012 Qatar International Rally, Qatar mobile: + 974 55485600, E-mail: NDPPublicity@googlemail.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

www.qmmf.com
www.merc-fia.com

Date issued: 26/01/2012

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