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Jordan Rally preview

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

For immediate release
Wednesday, May 19th, 2004

JORDAN RALLY GETS UNDERWAY
ON THURSDAY EVENING IN AMMAN

Record entry for 22nd Jordan Rally; Al-Wahaibi, Al-Attiyah and Al-Qassimi go head-to-head

AMMAN (Jordan): The Jordan International Rally gets underway at 17.00 hrs on Thursday afternoon with a timed spectator stage in Amman. The Marlboro-supported event has attracted the strongest entry in the 22-year history of the Hashemite Kingdom's round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship and this year's series contenders will tackle 20 timed special stages in the Jordanian deserts.

Leading competitors from 11 countries into the opening 2.27 kms stage is the defending FIA Middle East Rally Champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson in an Autotek Subaru Impreza WRX STi. Al-Attiyah holds a two-point advantage in this year's eight-round series, despite missing the Bahrain Rally because of rallying commitments in Mexico. Patterson travelled directly to Amman after finishing first overall in the 1600 section on a major British event in Wales last weekend.

~The stages are a little rougher than Qatar and Oman, but they are not a problem for us,~ said 2003 rally winner Al-Attiyah. ~I enjoyed this rally last time, but I know that it will be much harder. The competition will be very tough.~

The Qatari gained the series lead on the last round in Oman, when the UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi retired the Power Horse World Rally Team Subaru Impreza WRX STi with engine failure near the finish. Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr are heading into their busiest ever period. After attempting to regain the championship lead in Jordan, the pair head off to tackle both the Greek and Turkish rounds of the World Rally Championship in June.

~I was bitterly disappointed to lose second place in Oman,~ confessed Khalid. ~But that is rallying and everyone has some bad luck in the course of a season. I am two points behind Nasser and must make sure that I keep the pressure on.~

Oman's Hamed Al-Wahaibi has led both the events he has contested this season, only for mechanical problems to sideline his Mitsubishi. The former Group N regional champion is determined to change his run of bad fortune with victory this weekend. His co-driver Allan Harryman is also on a run of bad luck: last weekend he and Greek rally driver Ioannis Papadimitriou retired on the first stage of the Cyprus Rally with steering problems.

Andreas Tsouloftas had better luck last weekend and is hoping to follow up an excellent 11th overall in Cyprus with a second successive podium finish in Jordan. The Cypriot lies third in the Middle East series after three rounds and has an impressive record in Jordan, spanning 10 seasons.

After several years away from rallying, Dubai's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum made his competitive return with a fine third place in Oman. Second overall in the 1990 Jordan Rally behind Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Suhail will be partnered in Jordan by Lebanon's Ahmed Ghaziri.

Jordanian drivers have never won their home event, but Amjad Farrah, Marouf Abu Samra and Faris Bustami are the Hashemite Kingdom's main hopes of writing their own piece of rallying history. Farrah lies equal fifth in the series in his Team Jordan Mitsubishi and knows that a podium finish would boost his chances of taking a maiden regional title.

Lebanon's Michel Saleh finished second overall in Oman last month and catapulted himself into contention for the title. He has quickly adjusted to life after his trusty Group A Toyota, although he is fully aware that the Qatar Rally Team duo of Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and Abdullah Al-Kuwari are overdue a good result in their Mitsubishis.

Saudi Arabian drivers Ahmed Al-Sabban and Essa El-Dossary have made a solid start to their championship campaign and hold fourth and fifth in the points. It has been eight years since Abdullah Bakhashab last won the championship for the Kingdom and Al-Sabban has never been better placed to follow Bakhashab and 1992 champion Mamdouh Khayat on to the Middle East's role of honour.

Bahrain's challenge will be in the hands of Hassan Al-Sadadi at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza. He was forced to miss the last event in Oman because of finanical constraints, but is relishing the chance to represent the island in Jordan. Syria's main hopes rest with Haitham Al-Yousifi and Bashar Aboukhoura, although female driver Abir Fudail has also entered. She faces competition from the Jordanian duo of Nancy Majali and Abir Batikhi for the ladies' prize.

Kuwait's Meshal Al-Nejadi holds a 10-point advantage in the 1600 category, although Cypriot Nearchos Nearchou, Jordan's Raed Bdeir and Kuwait's Essam Al-Nejadi are also entered in two-wheel drive cars.

The event is also a round of the Toyota Team Saudi Arabia challenge and Sultan Hamdi, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Majed Al-Ghamdi and Abdullah Al-Dosari line-up in a quartet of Toyota RAV4s behind the FIA competitors.

This weekend will also mark the first time that a GPS tracking system has been used in motorsport in the Hashemite Kingdom and this should ensure that competitors remain on the designated route. A new joint-venture technology, set up by Sport TRAXX and HS Sports, will also be tested on several of the leading cars.

~This is a combined transponder timing technology,~ said Wolfgang Schindele of Sport TRAXX. ~It should improve the speed, efficiency and accuracy of the car tracking system. The aim is to come up with a standard format for all rallies in the future, which will allow organisers to utilise human resources elsewhere.~

Thursday's Marlboro spectator stage is followed by eight timed sections in the deserts to the south of Amman on Friday. Runs through a new Lajun stage and a Sultani special are followed by centralised servicing in the Baalbaki Service Park. This is followed by the gruelling Swaqqa stage and a new section near Qatrana. These four stages are then repeated on Friday afternoon.

The second leg takes place to the west of the city, in the mountaineous area near Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea. These stages are shorter and more technical. The timetable begins with a run through the Turki, Mount Nebo and then the Dead Sea stage - which is renowned as being the lowest special on the planet. These are repeated, before two runs through the Rumman special and a stage at Wadi Shueib. The podium is scheduled for 18.30 hrs on Saturday evening in Amman.

2004 Jordan Rally - leading starters (top 10 only):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
3. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY)/Costas Laos (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
4. Hamed Al-Wahaibi (OM)/Allan Harryman (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
5. Marouf Abu Samra (HKJ)/Malek Hariri (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6
6. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ziad Chehab (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
8. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
9. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Imad Jumaa (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6
10. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
11. Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa (UAE)/Ahmed Al-Ghaziri (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6

2004 FIA Middle East Rally Championship:
Positions after round 3 of 8 (Drivers):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) - Subaru* 20 pts
2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) - Subaru* 18 pts
3. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY) 13 pts
4. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA) 10 pts
5. Essa El-Dossari (KSA) 8 pts
5. Michel Saleh (RL) 8 pts
5. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 8 pts
8. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA) 6 pts
8. Suhail Khalifa (UAE) 6 pts, etc
(* Mitsubishi unless stated)

Positions after round 3 of 8 (Co-Drivers):
1.Michael Orr (GB) 18 pts
2. Steve Lancaster (GB) 12 pts
3. Chris Patterson (GB) 10 pts
3. Killian Duffy (IRL) 10 pts
5. Ramzi Mansour (HKJ) 8 pts
5. Savvas Laos (CY) 8 pts
5. Ziad Chehab (RL) 8 pts
5. Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) 8 pts, etc

1600 (2WD)
1. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KWT) - Citroen 20 pts
1. Nearchos Nearchou (CY) - Proton 10 pts
3. Essam Al-Nejadi (KWT) - Proton 8 pts

Ends

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: 19/05/2004

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