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MERC Middle East Championship set for bright future

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

For immediate release
Tuesday, November 30th, 2004

MIDDLE EAST CHAMPIONSHIP
LOOKS SET FOR BRIGHT FUTURE

Nine events in provisional 2005 calendar;
Qatar Rally returns to the fold

DUBAI (UAE): The 2005 FIA Middle East Rally Championship could well be the strongest on record with nine events already pencilled into the provisional FIA championship calendar.

This weekend sees the 2004 series draw to a close with the Dubai International Rally, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Department. But there will be a mere eight-week gap before the series resumes with the UAE International Rally in Abu Dhabi at the end of January.

The FIA will finalise the calendar at a meeting in December, but the Qatar International Rally has been reinstated into the provisional calendar after running so successfully as a candidate round back in February. Organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF), it received a favourable FIA Observer's report and is set to be the fourth round of the regional series in 2005, moving from its traditional February slot to a new date in April.

To avoid a clash with preparations for April's Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix, the Bahrain Motor Federation requested a slot earlier in the season for its premier off-road event and the two-day Bahrain International Rally moves to a late February date. Sweltering heat made last year's Oman International Rally one of the most gruelling in the calendar and to try and reduce the outside air temperature, the 2005 Oman event shifts back a month to a mid-March date.

Officials from the Royal Automobile Club of Jordan have been visiting select rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship this season in a bid to raise the profile and awareness of their event. The long-term goal is a place in the coveted WRC and the 2005 Jordan International Rally moves to an early May slot and will now take place the week before the Cyprus round of the WRC.

Lebanon's all-tarmac round of the championship retains its early-July place in the calendar and the Syrian International - which moved base from Damascus to Saydneya in September this year - retains a similar slot in the calendar. The final two rounds of the series in Cyprus and Dubai maintain their respective early October and early December dates.

~The calendar will consist of nine rounds in 2005 and that makes for a very strong and competitive championship,~ said Mohammed Juma Bin-Bakheit, Chairman of the Organising Committee for this weekend's Dubai International Rally. ~The FIA have modified the regulations for 2005 and only Group N cars will be eligible to score points. This weekend's Dubai International will mark the last time that two-wheel drive or Group A cars will be eligible to score points on regional championship rallies.~

The Dubai International Rally starts from the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel on Thursday morning and has attracted additional support from GTS Recovery, the Gulf Commercial Group, Space Imaging Middle East, Sky Electronics and AMD.

2005 FIA Middle East Rally Championship dates (provisional):
UAE International Rally January 26-28th
Bahrain International Rally February 23-25th
Oman International Rally March 16-18th
Qatar International Rally April 13-15th
Jordan International Rally May 5-7th
Rally of Lebanon July 1-3rd
Syria International August 31st-September 2nd
Troodos Rally October 7-9th
Dubai International Rally November 30th-December 2nd

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, Dubai International Rally Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Tel: + 9714 7054610, Mobile + 971 50 3616881, Fax: + 9714 7054599 and e-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com.
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)
and
Atala Abousaleh, Dubai International Rally, Arabic Press Officer, Tel: + 9714 7054182, Mobile: + 971 50 6469853, Fax: + 9714 7054599, e-mail: wisam_mm@emirates.net.ae

Date issued: 30/11/2004

For further information or assistance please contact:

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