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MERC Qatar's Al-Kuwari aims to defend nine-point MERC lead in Jordan Rally

Jordan International Rally
2012 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 4

For immediate release
Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

QATAR’S AL-KUWARI BIDS TO DEFEND NINE-POINT
MIDDLE EAST CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD IN JORDAN RALLY

· Seven drivers still harbour dreams of 2012 Middle East title
· Unbranded Ford Fiesta for Sheikh Khalid’s MERC return

DEAD SEA (Jordan): Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari will line up at the start of the 2012 Jordan Rally at the Royal Automobile Museum in Amman on Thursday evening determined to defend a nine-point lead in the 2012 FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

The Doha-based Mini Cooper S2000 driver has 40 points after three rounds of the six-event regional rally series and will tackle 16 gravel special stages, near the Dead Sea, with it all to do if he is to fend off the challenge of former champion and fellow Qatari Misfer Al-Marri.

Al-Marri has 31 points from his three starts this season, but both drivers are aware that the Jordan Rally sees the reappearance of seven-time champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, 2004 champion and former WRC regular Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and 10-time Rally of Lebanon winner Roger Feghali.

“I know it will not be easy to reach the podium in Jordan,” said Al-Marri, who won the championship in 2010 and is partnered by Italy’s Nicola Arena in his Ford Fiesta S2000. “Nasser is going to race in the last three rounds of the Middle East and he is more than capable of securing three wins and 75 points.”

Al-Attiyah finished second in Qatar back in January and missed the last two rounds of the series. He currently lies 22 points behind Al-Kuwari and 13 adrift of Al-Marri and knows that victory is paramount in Jordan if he is to wrest the title from his fellow Qatari’s clutches.

Al-Qassimi has pieced together an exciting WRC and MERC deal with newly formed Abu Dhabi Racing for 2013 and the Emirati will drive an unbranded Ford Fiesta S2000 in Jordan, a car that has already competed in two rallies. “This is a shakedown exercise for me – a time to get back into the rhythm ready for next season.”

Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi has also graduated to the WRC after achieving moderate success in the MERC. He makes a welcome return to the regional rallying scene with Ulster co-driver Michael Orr and will be looking for outright victory rather than championship points.

Assuming that he tackles the next two rallies in Cyprus and Dubai, Lebanon’s Roger Feghali remains in contention to become the first Lebanese ever to win the regional championship. Rule changes mean that he does not have to attend rallies in certain geographical zones any more and Feghali has 25 points on the board, courtesy of his stunning victory in Lebanon in September.

Nicholai Georgiou suffered a bitter blow to his title challenge on the final asphalt stage of the Rally of Lebanon. Virtually assured of championship points, Georgiou crashed into a wall on a right-hand corner and that mistake means that he arrives in Jordan tied on points with Feghali and Kuwait Rally winner and sixth title contender Khalid Al-Suwaidi.

Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi has been a consistent performer this season and he is also in contention for the title. Currently tied on 18 points with Al-Attiyah and Rally of Lebanon runner-up Abdo Feghali, Al-Qassimi is a former regional Group N champion and he and Steve Lancaster will be looking for a podium finish in their Ford Fiesta S2000 in what promises to be one of the closest Jordan rallies on record and one of the most fascinating title run-ins in MERC history.

The event gets underway with a ceremonial start at the Royal Automobile Museum in Amman from 17.00hrs on Thursday afternoon.

Teams will tackle eight stages on Friday and another eight timed tests on Saturday. Action kicks off at 08.18hrs on Friday morning with the first of two runs through the Suwayma stage, before teams tackle the Mahes, Mount Nebo and Ma’in specials en route to a regrouping and service at the Dead Sea from midday. The four stages are repeated in the afternoon.

The Turki, Bahath, Al-Karama and the Baptism Site stages are on the agenda on Saturday morning from 07.53hrs and the four timed tests will be repeated in the afternoon after a regroup and service from 11.33hrs. The podium ceremony will take place at the Dead Sea at 16.50hrs.

2012 Jordan Rally – leading starters
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta S2000 RRC
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QAT/Nicola Arena (ITA) Ford Fiesta S2000
3. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Marshall Clarke (GBR) Ford Fiesta S2000
4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Michael Orr (GBR) Ford Fiesta S2000
5. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Patrick Walsh (GBR) Mini Cooper S2000
6. Roger Feghali (LBN)/Joseph Matar (LBN) Ford Fiesta S2000
7. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QAT)/Nick Beech (GBR) Ford Fiesta S2000
8. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Steve Lancaster (GBR) Ford Fiesta S2000
9. Nicholai Georgiou (LBN)/Ata Al-Hmoud (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
10. Mazen Tantash (HKJ)/Zeid Abu Zeid (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX

2012 FIA Middle East Rally Championship
Positions after round 3 of 6
Drivers’ Championship

1. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT) 40 pts
2. Misfer Al-Marri QAT) 31 pts
3. Khaled Al-Suwaidi (QAT) 25 pts
3. Roger Feghali (LBN) 25 pts
3. Nicholai Georgiou (LBN) 25 pts
6. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT) 18 pts
6. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (ARE) 18 pts
6. Abdo Feghali (LBN) 18 pts
9. Salah Bin Eidan (KWT) 12 pts
9. Burcu Cetinkaya (TUR) 12 pts
9. Ala’a Rasheed (HKJ) 12 pts, etc

Co-drivers’ Championship
1. Joseph Matar (LBN) 35 pts

2. Nicola Arena (ITA) 31pts

3. Killian Duffy (IRL) 25 pts
4. Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) 25 pts
4. Nick Beech (GBR) 25 pts
6. Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) 18 pts
6. Marc Haddad (LBN) 18 pts
6. Steve Lancaster (GBR) 18 pts

Ends

Neil Perkins, International Press Officer, 2012 Jordan International Rally, Crowne Plaza Jordan Dead Sea Resort and Spa, Media Centre, Tel: 962 78 8807097, E-mail: NDPPublicity@googlemail.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

www.jordanrally.com
www.merc-fia.com
Facebook Group - Jordan Motorsport (الأردنية لرياضة السيارات)
Twitter: @Jordanmotorspor

Date issued: 10/10/2012

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