Al Attiyah prepares for first Rally of Argentina
2004 Rally of Argentina
FIA World Rally Championship, round 8 of 16
For immediate release
Tuesday, July 13th, 2004
QATAR'S NASSER SALEH AL-ATTIYAH
PREPARES FOR FIRST ARGENTINA RALLY
Al-Attiyah faces stiff PWRC challenge; Loeb bids to extend Citroen's lead in WRC
VILLA CARLOS PAZ (Argentina): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson are in South America this week making their final preparations for the Rally of Argentina, the eighth round of the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship and the fourth round of the Production World Rally Championship (PWRC). The three-day rally begins in Villa Carlos Paz, near Cordoba, on Thursday. (July 15th).
The defending Middle East rally champion is tackling the PWRC for the first time at the wheel of an Autotek Motorsport-prepared Group N Subaru Impreza WRX STi and is competing across the pampas in the Cordoba province of Argentina for the first time. So far this season he has taken part in the Sweden, Mexico and New Zealand rounds of the series, in addition to the Dakar Rally and five rounds of the Middle East regional series.
~It has been a bit hectic over the last two weeks,~ said a confident Al-Attiyah. ~We took part in the Rally of Lebanon at the start of the month and finished fifth behind four Lebanese drivers. Then I had to go to Thailand for a shooting competition. I represent Qatar in skeet shooting and this was a warm-up competition to the Olympic Games in Athens next month.
~Argentina will be very different to the rally in Lebanon. The competition is likely to be intense and the gravel stages are very difficult. I have not been here before, but I enjoy driving fast over this type of special stage and feel that I am at my strongest over fast flowing roads where I can build up a rhythm behind the wheel.~
Al-Attiyah currently lies equal 11th in the PWRC rankings, courtesy of the two points he collected in Sweden and New Zealand for a pair of seventh places. Spaniard Daniel Sola leads the series on 16 points, after winning in Mexico and finishing third in Sweden. Finland's former Mitsubishi factory driver Jani Paasonen and Japan's Toshi Arai lie joint second overall, albeit a point behind, and Britain's Alister McRae is fourth.
~There is a world class entry on rounds of the PWRC,~ added Nasser. ~Any one of those drivers could probably graduate with ease to a works drive in the WRC, so I need to make sure that I am at my sharpest and ready for the challenge.~
Last year's Rally of Argentina was won by Finland's Marcus Gronholm in a Peugeot 206 WRC, with Spain's Carlos Sainz second in a Citroen Xsara and Britain's Richard Burns completing the podium places in a second Peugeot. Ford, however, is hopeful of a podium finish after winning the event with Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz in 2001 and 2002.
Organisers have dropped last year's compact set-up in favour of a return to its traditional format of visiting the three valleys in the sierras of Cordoba, each offering stages of differing character and landscape. After the now traditional opening at the Pro-Racing super special stages near the rally base of Villa Carlos Paz on Thursday evening, the first full day is based in the Punilla Valley to the north. The event runs two months later in the year than in 2003 and is deep in the Argentine winter.
Leg two is a mix of the flowing stages in the Calamuchita Valley to the south and the Punilla Valley. A shorter final day ends amid the rocky speed tests high in the Traslasierra mountains, and brings the return of El Condor and Giulio CÚsare, two of the most famous and toughest stages in the entire championship, which peak at almost 2200 metres.
The Pro-Racing tests will be repeated at the end of the first and second legs. Also back is the picture postcard finish ceremony in Cordoba's soccer stadium. Drivers face 26 stages covering 382.63 kms of competition in a route of 1347.27 kms. Last year more than 1.3 million spectators watched the event.
2004 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship (after 3 of 7 rounds):
1. Daniel Sola (E) 16 pts
2. Jani Paasonen (FIN) 15 pts
2. Toshi Arai (J) 15 pts
4. Alister McRae (GB) 14 pts
5. Manfred Stohl (A) 10 pts
11. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 4 pts
11. Gianluigi Galli (I) 4 pts, etc
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