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Al Wahaibi takes massive lead in Jordan Rally

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

For immediate release
Friday, May 21st, 2004

OMAN'S AL-WAHAIBI OPENS UP
MASSIVE LEAD IN JORDAN RALLY

Qatar's Al-Attiyah out with engine failure; Abu Samra leads Jordanian challenge in second place
Lebanon's Saleh out with gearbox problems; UAE's Sheikh Suhail breaks engine mountings

AMMAN (Jordan): Oman's Hamed Al-Wahaibi and Ulster co-driver Allan Harryman had opened up a massive 3m 52.1s lead after nine special stages of the 2004 Jordan International Rally on Friday. But their advantage had been a mere two seconds until Qatar's defending champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah retired his Subaru Impreza WRX STi with engine problems.

The opening two desert stages on this fourth round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship developed into an epic battle between Al-Attiyah and Al-Wahaibi. The Qatari had drawn first blood through Thursday's spectator stage, but Al-Wahaibi quickly hit back through the 19.50 kms Lajun stage and beat Al-Attiyah by 7.2 seconds to take a slender outright lead.

The game of cat and mouse continued over the fast rocky desert stages to the south of Amman. Al-Attiyah beat Al-Wahaibi by 2.6 seconds in the 20.65 kms Sultani test to move within two seconds of the former Group N regional champion. But Al-Attiyah crashed into a wadi in the fourth stage and wrecked the underside of the Subaru. Metres later the Impreza spluttered to a halt with engine failure.

~I feel sorry for Nasser, but that is what happens when you push hard,~ said Hamed. ~Now I must make sure that I don't drive too slowly, because that is when you make mistakes.~

~It was becoming a great fight with Hamed,~ said Al-Attiyah. ~He surprised me. He was quickest on the first one and then I won the second. The tracks in the fourth stage were confusing. There were many paths going in different directions and we hit this ditch very hard. We bounced into the air and then the engine lost power. I knew it was over.~

Jordan's Marouf Abu Samra fought back up to second overall after losing more than two minutes with a flat tyre in the fifth stage. His fellow Jordanian Amjad Farrah held third position. ~I was up to second overall and going really well until I got a flat tyre in the fifth stage,~ said Abu Samra. ~Those two minutes I lost will take up some catching up, but I managed to regain second position in the afternoon.~

Cypriot Andreas Tsouloftas held second for much of the afternoon before losing two minutes on the last stage of the day. He slipped to fourth overall. Sixth-placed Bashar Bustami and eighth-placed Faris Bustami made sure there were four Jordanian drivers inside the top 10.

Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr held fifth position in the Power Horse World Rally Team Subaru Impreza WRX STi. ~I made a conscious decision at the start not to worry about the opposition and just to concentrate on my strategy,~ said Sheikh Khalid. ~The championship is more important to me than setting a few fastest stage times and taking risks with the car.

~But I hit the same ditch as Nasser. We hit it flat in fifth when we should have been in third gear. I thought that it was finished. But the engine was okay and we reached service.~

Dubai's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum began strongly and moved up to fourth after SS3. But he retired with broken engine mountings in the fourth stage. Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh was the first notable retirement after suffering terminal gearbox problems and turbo problems put paid to Jordanian Ahmad Al-Daoud's chances.

Saturday's final section takes place to the west of the city, in the mountaineous area near Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea. These stages are shorter, twistier 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.

Positions at end of leg 1 (top 10 only):
1. Hamed Al-Wahaibi (OM)/Allan Harryman (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 1h 44m 11.3s
2. Marouf Abu Samra (HKJ)/Malek Hariri (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 1h 48m 03.4s
3. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 1h 48m 37.6s
4. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY)/Costas Laos (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 1h 51m 12.4s
5. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 54m 18.5s
6. Bashar Bustami (HKJ)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 1h 55m 28.7s
7. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 1h 56m 15.1s
8. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Imad Jumaa (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 2h 01m 02.5s
9. Hassan Al-Sadadi (BAH)/Hamoud Al-Jabri (OM) Subaru Impreza WRX 2h 02m 46.4s
10. Abdullah Al-Kuwari (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 2h 04m 54.1s

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.ndp-publicity.com and www.racj.com

Date issued: 21/05/2004

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