MERC Regional MERC 2 title wide open heading into Jordan showdown
2017 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 2
For immediate release
Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017
REGIONAL MERC 2 RALLY TITLE WIDE OPEN HEADING INTO JORDAN SHOWDOWN
· Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to battle for MERC 2 honours at Dead Sea
DEAD SEA (JORDAN): Entries may be thin on the ground in this year’s FIA Middle East Rally Championship, but the hunt for success in the region’s competitive MERC 2 championship for production-type NR4 cars is fascinating.
Heading into this weekend’s three-day FIA Jordan Rally at the Dead Sea, Qatar’s Rashid Al-Naimi tops the standings by nine points from Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri.
But Al-Naimi has decided to switch his attention to a limited programme of events in the FIA European Rally Championship this year and that has opened the door for Al-Thefiri to press on to try and drill home his advantage over the 18 special stages that stand in his way in the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea areas on Friday and Saturday.
While the Kuwaiti and his new Qatari navigator Nasser Al-Kuwari start as favourites to snatch an MERC 2 lead to take to the Cyprus Rally in June, the duo face eight rivals in Jordan – four from the host nation, two from Saudi Arabia and a further two cars from Kuwait.
The MERC 2 section is cost-effective and attractive to amateur teams and various derivatives of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution dominate the category. Al-Thefiri’s competition from his own country comes from Essam Al-Nejadi and Salem Al-Thefiri, while the experienced drifting champion Saeed Al-Mouri joins Rakan Al-Rashed from the neighbouring Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The host nation’s hopes of claiming the MERC 2 crown and pushing for an overall podium finish rest with Khaled Juma, a returning Ma’rouf Abu Samra, Ihab Al-Shorafa and Ziad Miqdad.
The new FIA safety issue with fuel tanks that saw several cars refused a start at the opening round in Qatar in February has been put back to the start of the 2018 season. It means cars that were demoted to running in a makeshift National Rally in Qatar, or even refused a start, are now able to participate for the remainder of the season.
That is scant consolation to the crews who were not able to start in Doha. That decision resulted in the event having only two FIA finishers – the lowest number in the history of an FIA international rally.
The event is being pulled together thanks to a huge national effort supported by the Jordanian Government and its security and safety services.
It is also being supported by the private sector with the Hilton Dead Sea Resort & Spa, Dead Sea Touristic & Real Estate Investment (Samarah), Vestel, CCI – Creative Concepts Industries, Radio Hala and Bliss FM all playing a key part.
Today and tomorrow (Wednesday) teams complete their reconnaissance of the special stages that they face in the two-day route on Friday and Saturday, although the event gets underway with a new timed two-kilometre super special stage on the shores of the Dead Sea at 19.30hrs on Thursday evening.
In a demanding and compact route of 602.62km, 237.96km will be against the clock including two runs through the feared 31.01km of the Jordan River stage on Saturday.
FIA MERC 2 Championship – positions after round 1:
1. Rashid Al-Naimi (QAT) 39pts
2. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT) 30pts
1. Hugo Magalhães (PRT) 39pts
2. Fares Al-Thefiri (KWT) 30pts
Neil Perkins, News and Information Officer, 2017 Jordan Rally, Jordan Rally Media Service, UK mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@googlemail.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @LordPerkins. Facebook Group: MERC
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