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MERC New Welsh codriver for Khalid Al Qassimi in Oman

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

For immediate release
Wednesday, March 9th, 2005

DEFENDING CHAMPION AL-QASSIMI TO TACKLE
RALLY OMAN 2005 WITH NEW WELSH CO-DRIVER

Welshman Parry steps in to replace Ulsterman Orr;
UAE's Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa to drive second Subaru

MUSCAT (Oman): Defending FIA Middle East Rally Champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi continues the defence of his title next weekend, when he tackles Rally Oman 2005, the third round of the FIA regional series in Muscat. The event takes place on March 16th-18th and is being held under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism, with support from the Oman Automobile Association and Intevents.

The Power Horse-sponsored driver lines up in the three-day gravel event, which starts with a timed super special stage at Seeb on Wednesday, March 16th, in his Prodrive-prepared Subaru Impreza WRX STi. But the UAE driver will take part in the event with a new co-driver, because of his usual navigator's World Rally Championship commitments in Mexico.

Al-Qassimi teamed up with Ulsterman Michael Orr last season and the pair clinched outright rally wins in Bahrain and Syria on the way to the regional title. But Orr is also the 2004 FIA Production World Rally Championship-winning co-driver and is committed to rounds of the 2005 PWRC series this year. He is currently in Mexico preparing for a crucial round of the series in Leon and would have been unable to return to the Middle East in time to prepare for Rally Oman 2005.

With many of the leading regional rally drivers placing a great importance on a detailed preparation for Rally Oman, Al-Qassimi was left with no alternative but to look elsewhere for a co-driver for Oman, so that he could carry out a detailed reconnaissance of the rally route.

The Power Horse-backed driver will, therefore, team up with Welshman Craig Parry for the first time in Oman. Parry has tackled the opening two rounds of the series with the UAE's Ron Oakeley and is looking for a full programme of Middle East rallies.

~Losing Michael for this race is a blow for me and the team,~ admitted Sheikh Khalid. ~But Craig has been highly recommended and I am sure that he will do a first class job. I am now four points behind Nasser (Al-Attiyah) in the championship after two rallies and it is important that I push for the win in Oman. Last year we were running well and recovered from ninth to second position before losing a top result with mechanical problems near the end.~

In addition to tackling two Middle East rallies with Ron Oakeley, 25-year-old Parry has taken part in 13 WRC rallies and has been a professional co-driver for two and a half years. Based in Wales, he is managed by Phil Mills, the Newtown-based co-driver for Subaru's Norwegian driver Petter Solberg, who clinched the WRC World Drivers' Championship in 2003. Parry lists his hobbies as mountain biking and playing snooker and is looking forward to teaming up with Al-Qassimi.

~Craig is an experienced co-driver, who is keen to take part in rallies in the region,~ said Power Horse team manager Ron Cremen. ~Khalid needs to take a good result in Oman to keep up the pressure on Nasser and Craig will be ideal as a replacement for Michael Orr, who will return for the Qatar Rally in April.~

~This is a very exciting event for us,~ said Angela Colley, Corporate Affairs Manager for Power Horse Middle East. ~Last year the team endured a problem with the car very early in the rally, but by the second to last stage had skillfully moved up from ninth to second overall before they had a cruel mechanical failure. We are now four points behind Nasser and are hoping for a much different result this year in Oman in order to close the gap a little.~

Al-Qassimi will be joined in Oman by Dubai's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, who drives a second Subaru Impreza WRX STi, prepared and run by Ron Cremen's team, with additional backing from the SBK Group. Sheikh Suhail pushed Al-Qassimi all the way to the finish of the Bahrain Rally last month and kick-started his championship campaign with third position overall. He was also third in last year's Oman Rally.

Rally Oman 2005 gets underway at 15.30 hrs on Wednesday, March 16th at the Jawharat Al-Shatti complex. Based at the Muscat Intercontinental Hotel, the main event will be fought out over a two-day, all-gravel stage route in the Hajar mountains. In a route of 740.91 kms, there will be 14 timed special stages over a distance of 265.55 kms.

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
7. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT) 4 pts, etc

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, Rally Oman 2005 Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com , www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

Date issued: 09/03/2005

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