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MERC Khalid Al Qassimi leads in Bahrain International Rally

2005 Bahrain International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 2 of 9

For immediate release
Thursday, February 24th, 2005

UAE'S AL-QASSIMI TAKES EARLY LEAD
IN BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL RALLY

Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah rolls on first timed stage;
Second and third places for Nasser Al-Attiyah and Suhail Khalifa

SAKHIR (Bahrain): The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi set the early pace in the Bahrain International Rally, the second round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, which started in a rain shower at the Bahrain International Circuit on Thursday morfning.

At the wheel of his Power Horse-sponsored Subaru Impreza WRX STi, Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr opened up a nine-second lead over team mate Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum through the opening 13 kms stage near the Bahrain race course and extended their advantage to 14.3 seconds after the second Flag stage, despite ceding the fastest time to Qatar's 2003 Middle East champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah.

~I decided at the start of the day that I wanted to go out and win this rally,~ admitted Al-Qassimi. ~To win the championship you have to finish rallies, but there are some rallies that you set out to win and I felt that I had a great chance of winning this rally for the second year.~

Al-Attiyah suffered windscreen wiper failure in the opening test and a flat tyre in the third stage to fall 30 seconds behind the leader, whose lead was cut to five seconds when Suhail Khalifa set the fastest time. Al-Attiyah quickly regained the initiative and had closed to within 12.8 seconds of the leader after the fifth gruelling 31.65 kms Marntalla section. An overheating differential cost Sheikh Suhail some time in SS5 and he slipped to third overall.

~It has been quite a fight out there today,~ said Suhail. ~But I lost some time in the long stage. It was really fast and I couldn't push too hard, because the differential was beginning to overheat.~

Cars were flagged away in drizzly conditions by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, President of the Bahrain Motor Federation, but the weather conditions had improved by the time 27 of the 29 starters began the third timed stage in the opening leg of eight special stages.

One of the strongest entries ever seen in terms of quality of car preparation had assembled at the start of the two-day gravel race, as interest increases steadily in the regional rally series. Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari returned to competitive action in his new Mitsubishi Lancer, but was well down the early leaderboard before retiring at the service point with mechanical problems.

Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri and the UAE's Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi were involved in a close battle for fourth position, with Al-Marri edging ahead at the service point. Jordan's Amjad Farrah and Cypriot Andreas Tsouloftas completed the top seven. Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al-Sabban pushed his new Subaru into eighth place, Bahrain's Hassan Al-Sadadi was ninth and Dubai's Rashid Al-Ketbi overcame a second stage flat tyre to hold 10th position.

Khalifa Al-Attiyah had arrived in Bahrain in third place in the championship after taking the final podium place in the UAE at the start of February. But the Qatari rolled his Mitsubishi in the first stage when a tyre slid off a rim and he was forced to withdraw before the second timed section. Bahrain's Adel Mohammed Ahmed also failed to reach the end of the opening stage

Tomorrow (Friday) is the final day's action in the Bahrain Rally and there will be eight timed special stages. Action gets underway from the Sakhir circuit at 10.00 hrs and teams tackle sections at Riffa, Wadi Wadi, Marntalla and the Tree of Life before the finish at the BIC at 16.44 hrs.

Positions after SS5 of 16:
1. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 50m 40.5s
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 50m 53.3s
3. Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QA) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 51m 19.6s
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussain (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 52m 31.7s
5. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 52m 33.6s
6. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 52m 44.3s
7. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY)/Savvas Laos (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 52m 49.6s
8. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)Killian Duffy (IRL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 53m 59.7s
9. Hassan Al-Sadadi (BAH)/Keith Wake (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 54m 57.3s
10. Rashid Al-Kebti (UAE)/Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 55m 29.6s

Ends

For further media information: Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, Mobile + 44 7831 123153 and e-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com. www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

Date issued: 24/02/2005

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