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MERC Nasser Al Attiyah wins UAE International Rally

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

For immediate release
Friday, February 4th, 2005

QATAR'S NASSER AL-ATTIYAH BEGINS 2005
CAMPAIGN WITH VICTORY IN UAE RALLY

Defending champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi in second place;
Late stage agony for Jordan's Faris Bustami; Saudi's Sabban fourth;
Mechanical problems thwart UAE's Rashid Al-Ketbi and Sadiq Fadhel

AL-AIN (UAE): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson began their 2005 FIA Middle East Rally Championship campaign in emphatic style by winning the ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally, held over two days and 15 desert special stages in the Sweihan and Al-Ain areas of the Abu Dhabi emirate.

The event was organised under the patronage of His Highness Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Minister of Interior, and attracted 25 starters from 11 countries, at the start of what promises to be the most exciting regional championship on record.

Al-Attiyah began the second day's loop of six stages around Al-Ain with a two-minute lead over the defending champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and eventually claimed the first podium position by the winning margin of 1m 50s. The Qatari relinquished 30 seconds of his lead in the 13th stage after easing his pace in the Autotek-run Subaru Impreza WRX STi.

~It was a fantastic rally for me and a great start to the season,~ said Al-Attiyah. ~We had no problems with the new car and I showed that I have the pace to beat in the championship.~

Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr were content with a solid second position in their Power Horse World Rally Team Subaru Impreza WRX STi to begin the defence of the regional title they claimed in Dubai last December.

~Nasser set his stall out by pushing hard on Thursday, but I was not prepared to take the risks,~ said Al-Qassimi. ~The objective was to come here and make sure that we put some points on the board and start the season in a competitive fashion. It will be a long year. The competition will be tough and now I have eight points to my name.~

Dubai's Rashid Al-Ketbi incurred a time penalty of 1m 50s, which dropped him behind Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah into fourth place at the start of leg two. But the UAE driver set the second fastest time in the 10th stage and began a late challenge to regain the final podium place. His charge was finally brought to a halt in the 12th timed test, when he was forced to stop four kilometres from the finish with black smoke billowing from the rear of the Mitsubishi.

Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al-Sabban was fourth and Bahrain's Hassan Al-Sadadi overcame clutch problems to take sixth place. Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri lost a top three position with dump valve problems in the sixth and seventh stages on Thursday and slipped down the leaderboard. He eventually climbed back to fifth position, with Britain's David Scialom, the UAE's Ron Oakeley, Kuwait's Mufeed Mubarak and Jordan's Asef Aref rounding off the top 10.

Early day two retirements included the UAE's Sadiq Fadhel and Syria's Yazan Rijleh, who rolled his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 in the 11th stage. ~I clipped the inside of a tight corner and we rolled once,~ said Rijleh. ~The car was damaged, but my co-driver Yousef (Al-Asmar) and I are okay. That is rallying. The same can happen to the world's best drivers. We all know the risks.~

Jordan's Faris Bustami agonizingly lost fifth position on the penultimate stage with mechanical problems, Cypriot Andreas Tsouloftas rolled his Mitsubishi on day one, Lebanon's Michel Saleh suffered engine problems and the UAE's Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi succumbed to engine failure in the second stage.

The ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally was organised by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE with additional support 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, Coca-Cola and Quwat Jabal.

An impressive 19 teams have already registered with the FIA for this year's regional championship, which also sees the return of an FIA Manufacturers' category. The next stop on the FIA Middle East Championship's tour of nine events will be the Bahrain Rally at the end of February.

UAE International Rally - Positions after SS15 (unofficial top 10):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 37m 01s
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 38m 51s
3. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 2h 47m 42s
4. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)Killian Duffy (IRL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 2h 49m 28s
5. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 2h 52m 44s
6. Hassan Al-Sadadi (BAH)/Keith Wake (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 54m 28s
7. David Scialom (GB)/Andy Tatham (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 5 2h 56m 51s
8. Ron Oakeley (UAE)/Craig Parry (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 58m 50s
9. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT)/Saad Al-Melaifi (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 3h 00m 27s
10. Asem Aref (HKJ)/Burhan Abu Qura (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 3h 24m 54s

FIA Middle East Drivers' Championship
positions after round 1 of 9 (registered @ 01/02/05):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 10 pts
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 8 pts
3. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA) 6 pts
4. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA) 5 pts
5. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 4 pts
6. Hassan Al-Sadadi (BAH) 3 pts
7. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT) 2 pts
8. Asem Aref (HKJ) 1 pt

FIA Middle East Co-Drivers' Championship
positions after round 1 of 9 (registered @ 01/02/05):
1. Chris Patterson (GB) 10 pts
2. Michael Orr (GB) 8 pts
3. Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) 6 pts
4. Killian Duffy (IRL) 5 pts
5. Adel Hussein (QA) 4 pts
6. Keith Wake (GB) 3 pts
7. Saad Al-Melaifi (KWT) 2 pts
8. Burhan Abu Qura (HKJ) 1 pt

Manufacturers
1. Subaru 10 pts
2. Mitsubishi 8 pts

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, Press Officer, ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally Media Centre, Al-Ain Hilton Hotel, 1st Floor, Tel: + 971 3 7686396, Fax: + 971 3 7686394, Mobile + 971 50 3616881 and e-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com.
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)
and
Atala Abousaleh, Arabic Press Officer, ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally Media Centre, Al Ain Hilton Hotel, 1st Floor, Tel: + 971 3 7686394, Fax: + 971 3 7686394, Mobile: + 971 50 6469853 and e-mail: wisam_mm@emirates.net.ae

www.atcuae.org

Date issued: 04/02/2005

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