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CC 2004 Qatar Baja official preview

2004 Mitsubishi Motors Qatar Baja
November 25th-27th, 2004

For immediate release
Thursday, November 25th, 2004

QATAR BAJA GETS UNDERWAY WITH
TIMED PROLOGUE STAGE ON FRIDAY

Mitsubishi's Roma set to face Qatar's Al-Attiyah;
Bumper bike and quad entry set for Baja challenge;
Ambitious and varied route to the south of Doha

DOHA (Qatar): The Mitsubishi Motors Qatar Baja gets underway tomorrow (Friday) with a timed Prologue stage near Doha. This is a new FIA sanctioned event, organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF), and has attracted an impressive entry of cars, bikes and quads from both Europe and the Middle East. Leading officials, drivers and riders attended a pre-event press conference at the Ramada Hotel in Doha today.

Cars entered in the T1 and T2 categories will tackle two timed loops of a 230 kms special stage on Saturday, after the Prologue has determined a starting order on Friday evening. Leading the entry is Joan 'Nani' Roma, the Spanish motorcycle winner of this year's Dakar Rally. The former KTM factory rider is taking part in an international Baja for the first time as a member of the Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios team with his experienced Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne, himself twice a winner of the Dakar and last year's FIA World Cup-winning co-driver.

Roma has switched from rallying motorcycles to driving a factory-prepared Pajero and is using the event to gain vital desert experience before he takes the start of the 2005 Dakar Rally in Barcelona on New Year's Day.

The Spaniard's main rival is the defending FIA Middle East rally champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and his new French co-driver Didier Le Gal at the wheel of the powerful ex-Eric Vigoroux Chevrolet Pro-Truck. Al-Attiyah finished 10th overall in this year's Dakar in a Ralliart Pajero and is set to return to the African classic at the wheel of a BMW X5 in five weeks time.

~This will be a good test for me before the Dakar,~ said Nasser, who will be joined by the 2004 FIA World Cup-winning co-driver Alain Guehennec in Africa.

Team Saluki's Mark Powell finished seventh overall in the recent UAE Desert Challenge and he lines up in his trusty Land Rover Defender alongside the likes of UAE-based Frenchman Laurent Rosso and the experienced Arab driver Saeed Al-Hameli, himself a veteran of several UAE Desert Challenges. Another likely front-runner is the UAE's Saeed Al-Ketbi in a Nissan Patrol.

The 1993 FIA Middle East rally champion Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani, from Qatar, returns to active competition in a brutish Ford Bronco and he is joined on the entry by fellow Qataris Khalifa Al-Attiyah (Land Rover), Mohammed Al-Manni (Nissan) and Jaralla Ali (Land Rover). Seventeen cars will start the International section of the Baja, with five other drivers permitted to run over one 230 kms lap in a National category.

The new-look Baja, which has additional support from Qatar Navigation and NK Portakabins, has attracted a particularly strong international contingent in the motorcycle category, with no less than 21 riders visiting the event from the UK. Leading the British pack are 2005 Dakar hopefuls, Patsy Quick, Clive Town, Mick Tomkinson and Alex Hearne. They have planned to use the Baja for additional desert training before they head into the depths of the Sahara in January.

Heading the motorcycle entry - which will only tackle one lap of the Baja stage - are two former European Enduro champions Karl-Heinz Holz, from Germany, and Spain's Pau Soler. Holz tops the entry on his Husaberg, but the Italian Oscar Polli is also tackling the event for the first time on his KTM and looking to finish his Dakar preparations in winning style.

Of the Gulf-based riders, Khalid Al-Khamis has the most experience in international rallies and has competed in the UAE Desert Challenge on numerous occasions on his Honda. Another Gulf rider quite capable of taking a podium finish is the Dubai-based German Tim Trenker on his KTM. The remainder of the 33-bike entry consists of amateur riders from Italy and the UK.

The QMMF event has also permitted quad riders to take part over a variety of desert and rocky terrain south of Doha. Thirteen quads will start the event, including the rated Italian Angelo Montico on a Polaris Predator, the German Thomas Schreiber on a 400 Arctic Cat and the talented UAE rider Atif Ahmad Al-Zarouni. Both Abdulrahman Al-Hajri and Mohammed Shamsi will represent Qatar and Khalid Khouri is a second UAE entrant.

~We are delighted to welcome all our international competitors to the State of Qatar for the Baja,~ said Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, President of the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation. ~This is our first event of its kind for 12 years and we are pleased with the response and the size and quality of the entry. In the south of Qatar we have some fabulous terrain to stage such an event and I am confident that our competitors will enjoy the challenge of this compact and demanding rally.~

The opening Prologue stage gets underway at 14.00 hrs tomorrow (Friday), while the second and final section features two runs through a 230 kms selective for the cars - one for the bikes and quads - and takes place in the desert to the south of Doha, with a centralised service and satellite rally headquarters at Sealine. Action kicks off at 07.00 hrs on Saturday, November 27th and draws to a conclusion at around 18.30 hrs with the ceremonial finish.

Leading entrants:
Cars (top 6)
101. Joan Roma (E)/Henri Magne (AND) Mitsubishi Pajero MPR9
102. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Dider Le Gal (F) Chevrolet Pro Truck 103. Mark Powell (UAE)/Tim Ansell (UAE) Land Rover Defender
104. Laurent Rosso (UAE)/Christian Rosso (UAE) Nissan Pathfinder
105. Saeed Al-Hemali (UAE)/Ahmed Malik (UAE) Nissan Patrol
106. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Land Rover

Bikes (top 6)
301. Karl-Heinz Holz (D) Husaberg
302. Kevin Coplestone (GB) 600 CCM
303. Oscar Polli (I) KTM
304. Pau Soler (E) KTM
305. Tim Trenker (UAE) KTM
306. Peter Hoskins (GB) Honda 650

Quads (top 6)
401. Atif Ahmad Al-Zarouni (UAE) Honda 450
402. Angelo Montico (I) Polaris Predator
403. Thomas Schreiber (D) Arctic Cat 400
404. Abdulrahman Al-Hajri (QA) Rapter 650
405. Mohammed Shamsi (QA) Honda 450
406. Rene Von Charnier (D) Suzuki 400

Ends

For further media information: Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, 2004 Qatar Baja Press Officer, Bukka Room, Ramada Hotel, Doha, Qatar, Tel: + 974 4417155, Fax: + 974 4417158, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)
and
Hassan Oudeh, Arabic Press Officer, Tel: Qatar mobile + 974 5309872, Fax: + 974 4379761, E-mail: ha_oudeh@hotmail.com www.qmmf.com

Date issued: 25/11/2004

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