Lebanese duo extend their lead in home event

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

For immediate release
Saturday, July 3rd, 2004


Championship leader Khalid Al-Qassimi in top 10 position;
UAE's Sheikh Suhail in eighth place; Qatar's Al-Attiyah up to fifth

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

Roger and brother 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, Roger had edged into an 18.5 second advantage, courtesy of a stunning time in the Sourat stage.

As the leg progressed, Abdo overcame fuel pump problems to further pressurise his brother and the margin was reduced to 14.9 seconds after the sixth Beit Hebbak stage, but Roger duly extended his overall advantage to 30.2 seconds after the ninth Sourat stage near the end of the leg.

The pair were well clear of a pair of Lebanese drivers, with Doumit Bou Doumit and three-times former winner Jean-Pierre Nasrallah completing the top four in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions. Qatar's defending Middle East champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, climbed to fifth overall in the leading Subaru after moving ahead of Roger's cousin Ziad Feghali after the ninth stage.

Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr held 10th position after nine stages at the wheel of the Power Horse World Rally Team Subaru Impreza WRX STi. They were still outside the top eight - the minimum position required to score FIA Middle East championship points - but were handily-placed to attack their nearest rivals, 'Marco', Henri Massaad and the UAE's eighth-placed Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum.

Al-Qassimi had been 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 still suffering from a severe throat infection, although the pair's progress was further hindered by brake problems over the opening stages.

~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.~

Sunday's final leg offers eight timed sections 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 9 of 19 stages (top 10):
1. Roger Feghali (RL)/Nabil Njeim (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 1h 08m 11.4s
2. Abdo Feghali (RL)/Marc Haddad (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 1h 08m 41.6s
3. Doumit Bou Doumit (RL)/Ziad Maalouf (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 1h 10m 13.3s
4. Jean-Pierre Nasrallah (RL)/Joseph Mattar (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 1h 10m 31.0s
5. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 11m 30.6s
6. Ziad Feghali (RL)/Jihad El Hachem (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 1h 11m 53.1s
7. 'Marco' (RL)/R. Bou Abdo (RL) Volkswagen Golf Kit Car 1h 11m 53.4s
8. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Ahmad Ghaziri (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 1h 13m 01.2s
9. Henry Massaad (RL)/Jihad Khalife (RL) Renault Clio RS 1h 13m 05.4s
10. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 13m 47.6s


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Date issued: 03/07/2004

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