MERC Nada Zaidan flies female flag in UAE International Rally

2005 ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1 of 9

For immediate release
Monday, January 24th, 2005


Kenyan Smith returns for more desert experience; UAE's Oakeley confident of success

ABU DHABI (UAE): Qatar's Nada Zaidan will be the sole female rally driver at the start of the ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally, the opening round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, to be held under the patronage of His Highness Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Minister of Interior, on February 2nd-4th.

Zaidan made her rallying debut in the 2004 Qatar International Rally and finished ninth overall in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 she had hired from the Bahraini driver Ibrahim Busmait. She also took part in the Jordan, Syria and Dubai rallies - finishing 16th on the last event in December - and is looking forward to teaming up with Jordanian co-driver Nadia Shnoudeh again this season in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.

~It caused quite a stir in the Middle East when I entered the Qatar Rally last year,~ said Nada, who became the first Qatari lady to take part in regional rallying. ~It was a great experience for me and one which I hoped would encourage other women to enter the sport. My partnership with Nadia has worked well and we have acheived some good performances together. I have not been to the UAE Rally before and understand that some of the stages are new and will require a cautious approach.~

Kenyan driver Don Smith took part in a Middle East event for the first time in Dubai in December and vowed to return. He was a man of his word and arrives in Al-Ain with co-driver Sony Smith to tackle the UAE Rally at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza. He finished ninth overall in the Dubai Rally.

~The Dubai Rally was great fun,~ said Smith. ~It was so different driving in the desert to taking part in Safari-type events in Kenya. The stages in Dubai were challenging and I am sure that we will enjoy a similar-type event in Abu Dhabi. I understand that the event has moved this year and there will be new stages. That makes the playing field fairer for first-timers like myself, who don't have the knowledge of the terrain.~

Smith's friend and associate is the former regional Group N champion Ron Oakeley. The UAE-based Briton debuted a new Subaru Impreza in December's Dubai International Rally and finished eighth overall. He teams up again with regular co-driver Jamie Turner in the UAE to try and kick-start his 2005 rallying campaign with another top 10 result.

~The new car was fantastic in Dubai,~ said Oakeley. ~It was a great event for us and I am sure that we can repeat the top 10 result in this event.~

Another Dubai-based Briton keen to impress on his first competitive outing of the new season is former enduro rider and UAE Desert Challenge competitor Chris Cargill. The Liverpudlian tackled an event last season without success, but is looking forward to trying his hand at rallying in the competitive Group N category at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRX STi with co-driver John Oakeley.

Meanwhile, Britain's Roger Thomas has been a regular competitor on rounds of the Middle East series in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and returns this season in his trusty Peugeot 205 GTI with new co-driver Xavier Caminada.

~We are traditionally the first event in the new calendar season and all the championship front-runners and hopefuls will be present at the start in Al-Ain on February 2nd,~ said Mohammed Juma Bin Bakheit, Chairman of the Organising Committee. ~The entry has strength in depth, with the top six drivers from last year's championship being joined by a couple of newcomers and several regular supporters of the Middle East Championship.~

Additional support for the 2005 ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally comes from Etihad Airways, the official airline of the rally, Gulf Commercial Group for copiers, Sky Electronics for computers, GTS Recovery for Towing Services, Nissan Motors and the Hilton Hotel Al-Ain.


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, UAE International Rally Press Officer, Mobile + 971 50 3616881 or Mobile + 44 7831 123153 and e-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com.
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)
Atala Abousaleh, UAE International Rally, Arabic Press Officer, Mobile: + 971 50 6469853, e-mail: wisam_mm@emirates.net.ae

Date issued: 24/01/2005

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