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MERC Dubai Rally set to decide regional 1600 championship

2004 Dubai International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 8 of 8

For immediate release
Friday, October 29th, 2004

DUBAI RALLY TO DECIDE OUTCOME OF
GRIPPING 1600 SERIES SHOWDOWN

Kuwait's Al-Nejadi sets sights on repeat 1600 triumph;
End of an era for two-wheel drive rally runners

DUBAI (UAE): The Dubai International Rally, the final round of the 2004 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, will decide the outcome of a fascinating season-long battle for the overall regional 1600 Championship. Former Formula Two champion Nearchos Nearchou, from Cyprus, currently leads the series from the Kuwaiti driver Meshal Al-Nejadi.

The all-desert special stage event is being organised by the Automobile and Touring Car Club of the United Arab Emirates and takes place between December 1st-3rd, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Department. This year's event will mark the last 1600 Championship to be held in conjunction with the Middle East rally series.

After taking second position in the 1600 section of the recent Troodos International Rally in Cyprus at the wheel of his Proton Wira, Nearchou collected an invaluable eight championship points and the Dubai encounter across testing special stages near Hatta and Fossil Rock in the UAE sees the Cypriot with a slender four-point advantage over the defending champion Al-Nejadi.

The Kuwaiti had been the front-runner all season in his nimble Citroen Saxo, but he suffered a catalogue of disappointments in Cyprus, which began when his Saxo was stranded at the port in Beirut en route to Larnaca. Unable to arrange its delivery in time to take the start of the Nicosia-based event, Al-Nejadi hired a Peugeot 106 from a Cypriot associate and was lying fifth in the two-wheel drive category when he retired on the final stage with mechanical problems and lost four valuable points.

The Kuwaiti must ensure that he wins the 1600 category in Dubai. Nearchos had not placed an entry as we closed for press, but if he does plan a last-minute assault at the event, he would need to finish fourth overall or lower for Al-Nejadi to take the title.

~I know I can do it,~ said the determined Kuwaiti. ~It was a bitter disappointment in Cyprus. After all the things we went through to make the start, to lose out on some points right at the end was cruel. But that is rallying. I am looking forward to the Dubai Rally. I am competitive and know that I must reach the finish. The stages will be quite tough on the car, but the organisers have done away with the areas where there used to be some soft sand, so it will be a matter of looking after the car.~

Nearchou currently has 42 championship points to Al-Nejadi's 38. The Kuwaiti's brother Essam El-Nejadi holds third overall with 18 points in his Proton Wira and the Jordanian lady driver Abir Batikhi is fourth with 12 points.

Based at the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai, this will be the final event in the Middle East rally series where 1600 or two-wheel drive cars will be permitted to score championship points. At the end of last season the FIA decided to scrap the category at the end of 2004 and either Nearchos Nearchou or Meshal Al-Nejadi will enter the history books as the last FIA Middle East 1600 champion.

~This category has always had a strong and faithful following in Middle East rallying,~ said Mohammed Juma Bin Bakheit, the President of the Organising Committee. ~These cars have offered drivers a low-cost opportunity to take part in international rallies in the region.~

For further information on entries and available concessions, please contact the ATC of the UAE, PO Box 5078, Dubai, UAE. Tel: + 9714 2284019, Fax: + 9714 2283159, e-mail: atcuae@emirates.net.ae. www.dubairally.com

2004 FIA Middle East Rally Championship
1600 (2WD) positions after round 7 of 8:
1. Nearchos Nearchou (CY) - Proton 42 pts
2. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KWT) - Citroen 38 pts
3. Essam Al-Nejadi (KWT) - Proton 18 pts
4. Abir Batikhi (HKJ) - Opel 12 pts
5. Lakis Parellis (CY) - Opel 10 pts
5. Naji Stephan (RL) - Peugeot 10 pts
5. Ziad Karanouh (RL) - Peugeot 10 pts
8. Luay Abu-Kaff (HKJ) - Peugeot 6 pts
8. Andreas Nicolaou (CY) - Suzuki 6 pts
10. Stelios Stylianou (CY) - Lada 5 pts

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, Dubai International Rally Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, NCH Building, Upper Bar, Newport, Shropshire, TF10 7EH, United Kingdom, Tel: + 44 1952 825078, Fax: + 44 1952 825001, Tel: Dubai mobile + (971 50) 3616881, UK mobile + 44 7831 123153 and e-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com.
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

Date issued: 29/10/2004

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