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WRC Al Qassimi retires from Telstra Rally Australia

2004 Telstra Rally Australia
FIA World Rally Championship, final round

For immediate release
Saturday, November 13th, 2004

UAE'S KHALID AL-QASSIMI
RETIRES FROM RALLY AUSTRALIA

Power Horse Team driver heads home in positive frame of mind;
Scotland's Alister McRae on course for PWRC title;
Citroen's Loeb takes overall rally lead

PERTH (Australia): The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi was hoping to be back on the pace in the second leg of Telstra Rally Australia, after being permitted to restart the event on Saturday morning under the new Super-Rally regulations at the wheel of his Power Horse World Rally Team Subaru Impreza WRX STi.

But on the road section back to Perth City on Friday evening the decision was taken not to continue on the following two legs of the rally and Khalid made his decision to return to the Middle East to begin his preparations for the Dubai International Rally at the start of December.

Al-Qassimi and British co-driver Steve Lancaster had been running as high as 25th overall through the opening leg on Friday, before sliding off the road and losing over an hour to their rivals. But new regulations dictate that drivers are allowed to restart on subsequent rally legs.

~We could have restarted on Saturday morning,~ said Sheikh Khalid. ~But circumstances dictated that it was not possible and I made the decision to return to Dubai and begin to plan for the Dubai Rally. That is the most important thing for me. I need to finish inside the top eight to clinch the Middle East Rally Championship title for the first time. For me, the team and the sponsor Power Horse that is more important..~

The second leg left Perth City at 08.00 hrs (local time) and headed into a total of 10 special stages, punctuated by a 10-minute refuelling stop and tyre change area at Mundaring. Stages took place to the east of the city around Atkins, Helena and Flynns, with the day's competitive action drawing to a close with two runs through the Perth City super special stage. There were a total of 127.15 competitive kilometres.

In the Production World Rally Championship (PWRC), Japan's Toshi Arai had led the championship contenders in the early stages, but Scotland's Alister McRae hit the front mid-way through the opening leg and began the second day in seventh place overall, ahead of Finland's Jani Paasonen and Ulster's Niall McShea in the overall standings.

Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah was classified 19th overall at the start of the day and moved up to 16th after SS13. McRae maintained the overall lead over Paasonen, but Malaysia's Karamjit Singh retired with mechanical problems in SS12.

Citroen's Francois Loeb has already clinched the World Drivers' title for the Citroen Sport team and trailed Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm by 21.4 seconds at the start of the leg. But when Gronholm left the road in the 10th stage, Loeb hit the front and had built up a comfortable advantage over second-placed Harri Rovanpera after 14 special stages.

Sunday's final leg offers 127.83 kms of competitive in six longer special stages, including the 35.64 kms sting in the tail known as Bannister North. The finish is scheduled for Perth City at 16.00 hrs (local time).

Ends

For further media information: Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, 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: 13/11/2004

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