MERC Middle East Rally Championship title for Khalid Al Qassimi

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

For immediate release
Friday, December 3rd, 2004


UAE's Khalid Al-Qassimi takes FIA Middle East Championship title;
Lebanon's Abdo Feghali on the podium; 1600 title for Cypriot Nearchou

DUBAI (UAE): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah cruised to an emphatic victory in the Dubai International Rally, which finished in Dubai on Friday afternoon. But the maximum 10 points he was awarded for winning the two-day finale to the 2004 FIA Middle East Rally Championship were not sufficient to prevent the UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi clinching his maiden regional title on home ground.

~I did all I could and that was to win this rally,~ said outgoing champion Al-Attiyah. ~We have had a fantastic season, but Khalid drove very well today and all credit to him for that. I am very happy, because we showed we are a very strong team and I did miss a round of the championship in Bahrain to compete in Mexico earlier in the season. For sure, I will be back in 2005 to win back the championship.~

Al-Attiyah won the event by the margin of 3m 57s, but there was delight for the Power Horse World Rally Team, as Al-Qassimi and Orr celebrated a memorable season, which also saw Orr crowned as the FIA Production World Rally Championship-winning co-driver. The climax to the series was held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Department.

~It feels great to win the championship,~ said Khalid. ~It feels like a big weight lifted off me to finally say that I have won the title. The last few weeks since the Troodos Rally have been busy with preparations for this rally and for the recent event in Australia, but this is a great end to a busy and successful season.~

The Lebanese national champion Abdo Feghali impressed on his first desert rally to take third position in a Red Bull Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 and the Cypriot driver Menelaos Melissas took the best result of his career in the Gulf with fourth overall.

Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al-Sabban leapt from 10th to sixth at the start of the leg after the event's Stewards showed compassion for his sportsmanship on Thursday evening and gave him a notional time for the time lost assisting Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and his stricken Mitsubishi on the first timed section. Ahmed and Irish co-driver Killian Duffy eventually finished fifth to confirm fourth place for the driver in the regional series and third for the co-driver.

The former Jordanian national champion Faris Bustami retired in the ninth stage and Saudi Arabia's Essa Al-Dossari could not follow up his first ever fastest championship stage time on Thursday when he rolled out of the rally in SS9. Austrian veteran Rudi Stohl enjoyed his first experience of the Gulf deserts with his guest co-driver Elzabeth Wittmann in the OMV Mitsubishi Lancer. He held sixth position until he was forced to limp through the final stage with a damaged radiator sustained in the unlucky 13th stage.

There were useful top 10 performances for the UAE's Ron Oakeley and Kenya's Don Smith and Qatari female Nada Zaidan was classified 16th overall after SS13, but retired on the final stage.

The 1600 Championship was decided on the Dubai International Rally. Kuwait's Meshal Al-Nejadi won the section over the weekend in his Citroen Saxom, finished 11th overall and collected 10 points, but he was followed to the finish by the Cypriot Nearchos Nearchou in a Proton Wira. Nearchou, who duly clinched the 1600 title, began the weekend with a four-point lead in the series, but that was reduced to a winning two points at the end of the season.

Dubai's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi retired on the opening stage with engine problems and they were joined on the eighth stage on Friday morning, when Lebanon's Michel Saleh lost fourth position with mechanical problems.

Additional support for the event came from GTS Recovery, the Gulf Commercial Group, Space Imaging Middle East, Sky Electronics and AMD.

Meanwhile, the 2005 series kicks off in just over eight weeks' time with the UAE International Rally, the traditional Abu Dhabi-based round of the series. The series has been reduced from nine to eight rounds, following the Bahrain Motor Federation's decision to withdraw its February event from the revised FIA calendar.

Dubai International Rally - positions after SS14 (top 10 - unofficial):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subari Impreza WRX STi 2h 23m 29s
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 27m 26s
3. Abdo Feghali (RL)/Joseph Mattar (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2h 29m 07s
4. Menelaos Melissas (CY)/Panayiotis Shialos (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 2h 34m 32s
5. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 2h 38m 26s
6. Yazan Rijleh (UAE)/Yousef Alasmar (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2h 51m 45s
7. Meshal Al-Dafari (KWT)/Jassem Aldafari (UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2h 56m 03s
8. Ron Oakeley (UAE)/Jamie Turner (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 57m 58s
9. Don Smith (EAK)/Sony Smith (EAK) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 3h 08m 02s
10. Asef Aref (HKJ)/Ala'a Al-Hamoud (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 3h 17m 08s

2004 FIA Middle East Rally Championship:
Positions after round 8 of 8 (Drivers):
1. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) - Subaru* 51 pts
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) - Subaru* 44 pts
3. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY) 26 pts
4. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA) 22 pts
5. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 18 pts
6. Abdo Feghali (RL) 8 pts 14 pts
7. Issa Al-Dossari (KSA) 12 pts
7. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 12 pts
9. Roger Feghali (RL) 10 pts
10. Suhail Khalifa (UAE) 8 pts
10. Michel Saleh (RL) 8 pts , etc
* (Mitsubishi unless stated)

Positions after round 8 of 8 (Co-Drivers):
1.Michael Orr (GB) 51 pts
2. Chris Patterson (GB) 34 pts
3. Killian Duffy (IRL) 22 pts
4. Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) 18 pts
5. Steve Lancaster (GB) 17 pts
6. Joseph Mattar (RL) 14 pts
7. Savvas Laos (CY) 13 pts, etc

1600 (2WD)
1. Nearchos Nearchou (CY) - Proton 50 pts
2. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KWT) - Citroen 48 pts
3. Essam Al-Nejadi (KWT) - Proton 18 pts
4. Abir Batikhi (HKJ) - Opel 12 pts, etc


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)
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: 03/12/2004

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