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MERC Veteran Tony Georgiou set to return in Rally Oman

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

For immediate release
Friday, March 11th, 2005

VETERAN DRIVER TONY GEORGIOU SET
TO RETURN FOR RALLY OMAN 2005

Saudi Prince Khalid Al-Faisal enters Rally Oman 2005;
Oman's Khalid Soomar and Ahmed Al-Obaidani entered

MUSCAT (Oman): Lebanon's Tony Georgiou, one of the most experienced drives in the history of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, will come of retirement next week to tackle Rally Oman 2005, the third round of the FIA regional series, being held under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism, with support from the Oman Automobile Association and Intevents.

The Muscat-based Greek-Lebanese driver was a stalwart of the regional championship in the halcyon days of Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Saeed Al-Hajri and Michel Saleh, but retired from the sport in the mid-1990s after tackling many of the best events in the Middle East calendar.

Now preoccupied with a string of business commitments, Georgiou tackled last year's event in Oman and is looking forward to returning to the gravel special stages in the Hajar mountains again this year in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8.

~I like to think that I can represent my 'home' event,~ joked Georgiou. ~But I am probably not at the same level of the top drivers these days and will be aiming to finish rather than to challenge for an outright win.~

In addition to lining up alongside Oman's number one driver Hamed Al-Wahaibi and former regional Group N champion Nizar Al-Shanfari, Georgiou is also joined on the entry list by Oman's Khalid Soomar in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.

This year's three-day Rally Oman, which starts with a timed 'super special' stage at Seeb on Wednesday, March 16th, has captured the imagination of several Omani drivers. Ibrahim Al-Abri and co-driver Yaqoob Aiyub Al-Harthy will take part in a Bank of Muscat-backed Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Ahmed Al-Obaidani wheels out his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 and both Khalid Al-Minji and co-driver Khalid Abdullah Al-Minji will take part in a Subaru Impreza WRX STi.

Saudi Arabia's main challenge for honours in Rally Oman 2005 comes from last year's fourth-placed championship contender Ahmed Al-Sabban and his Irish co-driver Killian Duffy. But Sabban is joined in the Sultanate by Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, a former competitor in the Toyota RAV4 Challenge, who tackled the recent Bahrain Rally with Lebanese co-driver Jospeh Mattar in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7.

The Saudi is keen to gain as much experience of gravel rallying this year, but failed to reach the finish in Bahrain and is not a registered contender for the regional rallly series. Khalid was one of the most competitive of the Toyota drivers last year, in the one-make series which was the brainchild of Saudi Arabia's former regional champion Abdullah Bakhashab.

Rally Oman 2005 gets underway at 15.30 hrs next 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, with the finish taking place in Muscat on Friday afternoon.

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: 11/03/2005

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