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MERC OAA announces Rally Oman 2005

Rally Oman 2005
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3 of 9

For immediate release
Saturday, February 26th, 2005

OMAN AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION
ANNOUNCES RALLY OMAN 2005

Muscat base for Oman's premier rally;
New event format for gravel stage event

MUSCAT (Oman): The Oman Automobile Association today (Saturday) announced the running of Rally Oman 2005, the third round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, which takes place on March 16-18th. The event is being jointly organised by the OAA, in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism and Intevents and will be held under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Sport Affairs.

Oman's premier motorsport event rejoined the prestigious FIA Middle East Rally Championship last April after a five-year absence from the championship and was immediately declared the most popular round of the series, drawing praise from drivers, FIA officials and members of the media alike.

This year's event will be based at the Muscat Intercontinental Hotel, although the competitive action will take place over several timed special stages along twisty tracks in the Hajar mountains. The event's sole service park adjacent will be adjacent to the hotel in the heart of Muscat.

Rally officials are currently putting together the finishing touches to the route for this year's event and Finland's highly-acclaimed Simo Lampinen will act as Clerk of the Course. A former factory rally driver with the likes of British Leyland, Lampinen acts in a similar role on World Rally Championship events in Finland, Italy and Turkey and is also a consultant on international rallies as far afield as India. He has made several trips to the Sultanate of Oman in the last few months to finalise the route and was an interested onlooker during the UAE International Rally in Al-Ain in early February.

Competitive action in Rally Oman 2005 will get underway with a super special stage on Wednesday, March 16th. This will be located at the Oman Automobile Club, near Seeb International airport, and will also be repeated on Friday, March 18th. In a total route of around 740 kms, there will be 265 kms of competitive action in a compact route between Muscat and Quriyat.

~We are expecting around 30 entrants from all over the Middle East region,~ said Colonel Salim bin Khalifa Al-Maskiry of the Oman Automobile Association. ~Rally Oman will be the third round of the Middle East Championship and over 20 drivers have registered with the FIA to score points in the series this year. We are also hoping for a high turn out of Omani drivers, through the invaluable support of the new Ministry for Sports Affairs.~

Oman-based championship contender Nizar Al-Shanfari is likely to face competition from Oman's Hamed Al-Wahaibi, who is tackling a programme of events in the Production World Rally Championship, and multiple local rally winner Khalid Soomar.

But the Omani trio will be up against Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah - the 2003 regional champion - and the defending Middle East champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi in his Power Horse-sponsored Subaru Impreza WRX STi.

Al-Wahaibi had shown a clean pair of heels to Al-Atitiyah over the first two special stages through the Hajar mountains in April 2004. But he was sidelined with a blown engine and Al-Attiyah coasted to an emphatic victory. The Qatari and co-driver Chris Patterson eventually reached the podium over seven minutes ahead of the second-placed Lebanese pairing of Michel Saleh and co-driver Ziad Chehab. The UAE's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum was third overall.

For further information about Rally Oman 2005, contact the Oman Automobile Association, Tel: + 968 24510630, Fax: + 968 24510276
or Jeremy Alston (Mobile + 968 9269783) and Azzan Sinani at INTeVENTS, PO Box 268, Ruwi 112, Sultanate of Oman, Tel: + 968 24564325, Fax: + 968 24564327.
E-mail: nick.hodge@intevents.com and jeremy.alston@intevents.com

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2005 Oman International Rally Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, NCH Building, Upper Bar, Newport, Shropshire TF10 7EH, United Kingdom.
Tel: + (44) 1952 825078, Fax: + (44) 1952 825001, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

Date issued: 26/02/2005

For further information or assistance please contact:

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Shropshire TF10 7EN United Kingdom

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