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MERC Al Attiyah wins Bahrain Rally

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

For immediate release
Friday, February 25th, 2005

QATAR'S AL-ATTIYAH EXTENDS SERIES
LEAD WITH BAHRAIN RALLY VICTORY

UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi takes second place;
Third overall for UAE's flying Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa;
Non-finishes for Jordan's Farrah, Lebanon's Saleh and Saudi's Sabban

SAKHIR (Bahrain): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson extended their FIA Middle East Rally Championship advantage to four points by winning the Bahrain International Rally, today (Friday).

The Qatari followed up his victory in the UAE Rally earlier this month by beating the UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi by 32 seconds. Al-Attiyah began the second day's eight gravel stages in the deserts to the south of Manama with a 59 second advantage, after Al-Qassimi had been forced to complete three timed sections on Thursday afternoon with his Power Horse-sponsored Subaru Impreza WRX STi stuck in third gear. Al-Qassimi duly clawed nine seconds back on the ninth and 10th stages.

The event developed into a game of cat and mouse and there was a thrilling finish, with Al-Attiyah taking a 47-second advantage into the final three stages, as Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum closed to within two seconds of Al-Qassimi with one loop of timed sections to run, when a one-minute time penalty was quashed by event officials. Both Suhail Khalifa and Al-Qassimi promised the grand attack in a bid to snatch second position and the outcome fell in favour of Al-Qassimi by a whisker.

Suhail Khalifa drove like a man possessed to set the overall fastest time in the Riffa stage and moved ahead of Al-Qassimi by five seconds with a mere two seconds remaining. The battle continued through the final two stages with Al-Qassimi setting the fastest time, 16.9 seconds quicker than Suhail Khalifa. The final nail-biting stage gave Al-Attiyah victory and Al-Qassimi held on to take second overall.

~I lost my chance of winning when the transmission stuck in third gear on the sixth stage and we had to tackle three sections stuck in third,~ admitted Al-Qassimi. ~I pushed a little on Friday morning to remind Nasser that I was there, but Suhail was also on our pace and it was very close at the finish. Over the last three stages I had to push hard to ensure that I maintained second position.

~This year there are six or seven drivers out there quite capable of setting fast times and Suhail proved this weekend that he is a force to be reckoned with this year. Nasser has made a good start to the season and he is the target, but this is a season of nine rallies and you are able to drop two scores. The next two rallies will be crucial.~

Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri was fourth overall and the leading Mitsubishi to hold third place in the championship. Sharjah's Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi held fifth in his Mitsubishi before hitting trouble on the 15th stage, while the UAE's Rashid Al-Ketbi overcame suspension and fuel injector problems to take fifth. The UAE's Sadiq Fadhel jumped up the leaderboard to sixth when Hassan Al-Sadadi hit late trouble, while Kuwait's Mufeed Mubarak and Bahrain's Abdulraman Ghuloom featured in the lower reaches of the top 10.

Jordan's Amjad Farrah retired with first day transmission problems, Lebanon's Michel Saleh destroyed his Mitsubishi with a high-speed roll on day one and Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al-Sabban was sidelined with a driveshaft failure after finishing fourth in Al-Ain earlier this month.

An engine fire destroyed Ibrahim Busmait's Mitsubishi Lancer on the first day, Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah lost third position in the championship after a low-speed first stage roll, Britain's David Scialom retired his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution with a broken brake pipe in the 10th stage and Cypriot Andreas Tsouloftas retired in the 12th stage.

The next round of the FIA regional series will be the Muscat-based Rally Oman 2005, which takes place in mid-April.

Final positions after SS16:
1. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 37m 30.8s
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 38m 02.8s
3. Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QA) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 38m 24.2s
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussain (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 2h 43m 44.8s
5. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE)/Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2h 51m 44.9s
6. Sadiq Fadhel (UAE)/Yazin Rijleh (SYR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 2h 57m 31.2s

FIA Middle East Drivers' Championship
positions after round 2 of 9:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 20 pts
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 16 pts
3. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 9 pts
4. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE) 6 pts
4. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA) 6 pts
6. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA) 5 pts
7. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE) 4 pts, etc

FIA Middle East Co-Drivers' Championship
positions after round 2 of 9:
1. Chris Patterson (GB) 20 pts
2. Michael Orr (GB) 16 pts
3. Adel Hussein (QA) 9 pts
4. Nasser Al-Kuwari (QA) 6 pts
4. Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) 6 pts
6. Killian Duffy (IRL) 5 pts
7. Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) 4 pts, etc

Super 1600
1. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KWT) 10 pts
2. Shaker Al-Raei (KWT) 8 pts

Manufacturers
1. Subaru 20 pts
2. Mitsubishi 16 pts

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)
and
Atala Abousaleh, Arabic Press Officer, Mobile: + 971 50 6469853, e-mail: wisam_mm@emirates.net.ae

Date issued: 25/02/2005

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