Feghali brothers take control in Lebanon

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

For immediate release
Saturday, July 3rd, 2004


Series leader Al-Qassimi battles through the pain barrier in 12th position;
Al-Dossari leads Saudi challenge; Former winner Nasrallah in fourth place

JOUNIEH (Lebanon): Lebanon's Roger Feghali and co-driver Nabil Njeim were the overall leaders of the 28th Rally of Lebanon, the fifth round of the 2004 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, after the opening four special stages to the north of Beirut, today (Saturday).

The Feghali brothers, Roger and Abdo, had been embroiled in an epic family battle over the early stages, with Roger getting the better of his brother as the rally headed into the hills to the north of Beirut. After four timed stages the pair were closely matched, with Roger edging into an 18.5 second advantage after the first loop, courtesy of a stunning time in the fourth Sourat stage.

The pair were well clear of third-placed Doumit Bou Doumit's Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6, Jean-Pierre Nasrallah's fourth-placed Evolution 8 and Ziad Feghali in fifth.

Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr held 12th position after four stages at the wheel of the Power Horse World Rally Team Subaru Impreza WRX STi. Fresh from an impressive showing in last weekend's Rally of Turkey, Al-Qassimi has one eye on a podium finish and one on ensuring that he adds to his points tally for the regional championship.

But both Al-Qassimi and Orr suffered major setbacks even before the start of this weekend's event. Al-Qassimi was hospitalised during the recce after complaining of severe stomach pains. He was placed on immediate medication for an excruciating kidney stone and was fortunate even to make the start. Orr was suffering from a severe throat infection, which began to ease as the rally progressed.

~I have been in considerable discomfort for three days,~ admitted regional championship leader Al-Qassimi. ~The team called an ambulance for me from the hotel during the recce and I have been on medication to dissolve the stone and ease the pain. It wasn't the best way to start the rally. But I have found a pace which keeps me in touch with the leaders and in striking distance.

~The Lebanese drivers know these stages so well. There is no way that the Gulf drivers are going to be able to challenge them at this stage. I have to play the waiting game and ensure that I look after the points situation.~

Over the opening 1.62 kms super special stage around the commercial area in downtown Beirut, Al-Qassimi finished in 16th position, albeit seven seconds behind the early leader Abdo Feghali and runners-up Jean-Pierre Nasrallah, Doumit Bou Doumit and Jordan's Amir Najjar.

The Power Horse driver had climbed to 11th position after the opening tarmac stages, near Batroun and Ain Aaya, but slipped back to 12th after the Sourat stage. Dubai's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum held ninth overall in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 and Issa Al-Dossary led the Saudi Arabian challenge in 15th position. Team mate Ahmed Al-Sabban was 25th.

Saturday's opening leg of the Rally of Lebanon consisted of 10 special stages around Batroun, Jbeil, Monsef and Ain Aaya to the north of the capital.

Sunday's final leg offers eight special stages to the north and east of Beirut, including two runs through the Yahchouch, Blat, Zandouka and Bteghrine tests, punctuated by three service stops in the centre of Jounieh. Lebanon's Roger Feghali currently holds the record fastest time for each of Sunday's stages, with times set in 2001 and 2003.

Positions after 4 of 19 stages:
1. Roger Feghali (RL)/Nabil Njeim (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 29m 09.2s
2. Abdo Feghali (RL)/Marc Haddad (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 29m 27.8s
3. Doumit Bou Doumit (RL)/Ziad Maalouf (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 29m 52.7s
4. Jean-Pierre Nasrallah (RL)/Joseph Mattar (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 30m 00.1s
5. Ziad Feghali (RL)/J. El Hachem (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 30m 16.3s
6. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 30m 33.0s
12. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 31m 34.0s


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Date issued: 03/07/2004

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