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Al Qassimi faces fierce challenge in Rally of Lebanon

2004 Rally of Lebanon
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 5 of 8

For immediate release
Tuesday, June 29th, 2004

UAE'S SHEIKH KHALID AL-QASSIMI FACES FIERCE CHALLENGE
TO HIS FIA REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD IN LEBANON

Power Horse driver confident; Strong Lebanese entry
Qatar's Al-Attiyah aims to bounce back; Saudi duo pose a threat

JOUNIEH (Lebanon): Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr must overcome fierce competition in this weekend's Rally of Lebanon if they are to maintain their outright lead in the 2004 FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

At the wheel of the Power Horse World Rally Team Subaru Impreza WRX STi, Al-Qassimi begins the three-day tarmac event in the hills to the north and east of Beirut with a slender three-point over his nearest Cypriot rival, Andreas Tsouloftas.

Al-Qassimi starts as the second seed behind the defending FIA regional champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah in a second Subaru Impreza WRX, but both drivers are mindful of the serious threat posed by a host of rapid Lebanese asphalt experts.

~This will probably be the most fiercely contested round of the entire championship,~ admitted Al-Qassimi. ~I will begin my recce after arriving straight from the Rally of Turkey on Sunday evening, so I will be up to rally speed so to speak. But the tarmac stages in Lebanon can be treacherous and I know how well the local drivers perform on their own event.

~The local drivers will be going all out for the win and there will be no pressure on them to take championship points. That is where Nasser, Andreas, Amjad (Farrah) and I need to be careful. We must make sure that we finish in points-scoring positions.~

Al-Qassimi and Al-Attiyah face former Rally of Lebanon winners Jean-Pierre Nasrallah and Roger Feghali in a pair of new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8s, Agbo Feghali in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 and the highly-rated Doumit Bou Doumit in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6. But the threat is not confined merely to Lebanese drivers.

The leading names on the entry list also face a strong challenge from a resurgent Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, who has tackled the Rally of Lebanon in the past and performed well. Jordan's Amjad Farrah became the first Jordanian in history to win his home event in Amman last month and - had he not been excluded from the results of the Bahrain Rally for a technical infringement - Farrah would be the joint leader of the series at the half-way point.

Qatar's Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and Abdullah Al-Kuwari pose a threat in their Mitsubishis and Saudi Arabian drivers Ahmed Al-Sabban and Issa Al-Dossari are well-placed in the overall championship standings after four rounds. Bahrain will be represented by Hassan Al-Sadadi and Ebrahim Al-Busmait, while Lebanese veteran and former Gulf Champion Michel Saleh has set some competitive stage times this season in his Mitsubishi.

The Rally of Lebanon is based at the ATCL in Jounieh, north of Beirut, and is the only tarmac round of the FIA Middle East series. Competitive action begins with a timed super special stage in Beirut on Friday evening (July 2nd), before the mountaineous tarmac action takes place over the two-day weekend and finishes with the podium at the ATCL on Sunday afternoon.

Top 11 starters:
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 VII
4. Roger Feghali (RL)/Nabil Njeim (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer EvolutionVIII
5. Elan (RL)/Alain Georr (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI
6. Jean-Pierre Nasrallah (RL)/Joseph Mattar (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII
7. Abdo Feghali (RL)/Marc haddad (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII
8. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII
9. Michel Saleh (RL)/TBA Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII
10. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al -Maktoum (UAE)/Ahmad Ghaziri (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI
11. Doumit Bou Doumit (RL)/Ziad Maalouf (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI

2004 FIA Middle East Rally Championship:
Positions after round 4 of 8 (Drivers):
1. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) - Subaru* 24 pts
2. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY) 21 pts
3. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) - Subaru* 20 pts
4. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 18 pts
5. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA) 12 pts
5. Issa Al-Dossari (KSA) 12 pts, etc
(* Mitsubishi unless stated)

Positions after round 4 of 8 (Co-Drivers):
1.Michael Orr (GB) 24 pts
2. Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) 18 pts
3. Steve Lancaster (GB) 17 pts
4. Killian Duffy (IRL) 12 pts
4. Ramzi Mansour (HKJ) 12 pts
6. Chris Patterson (GB) 10 pts, etc

Ends

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Date issued: 29/06/2004

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