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MERC Al Attiyah leads after first stage of Rally Oman

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

For immediate release
Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

Al ATTIYAH TAKES LEAD IN RALLY OMAN 2005
AFTER OPENING 'SUPER SPECIAL' STAGE IN MUSCAT

Second place for Oman's Al-Wahaibi; Al-Qassimi lies third overall Entrants from Kenya, Switzerland, Austria and the UK in Rally Oman

MUSCAT (Oman): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson were the early leaders of Rally Oman 2005 after the opening timed spectator stage, near Oman's Seeb International Airport, today (Wednesday).

In front of a sizeable crowd who had gathered to watch the start of the Sultanate's premier motorsport event, the 2003 regional champion finished the 2.60 kms section two seconds ahead of second-placed Oman's Hamed Al-Wahaibi and British co-driver David Senior in their new Subaru.

~Hamed cannot score points in the championship, but I still want to win this rally,~ said the Qatari overnight leader. The event is being held under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism, with support from the Oman Automobile Association, Muscat Municipality, Omantel, Qwat Jabal and Intevents.

Twenty-eight cars left the start this afternoon, including 16 drivers registered for the FIA Middle East Rally Championship. Cars were flagged away from the podium by Ahmed Abdu Nabi Maki, Oman's Minister of National Economic. Defending regional champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi held third position in the Power Horse-supported Subaru Impreza WRX STi.

The UAE driver and new Welsh co-driver Craig Parry made a cautious start to their challenge for success. ~I need to push on this rally and take 10 points,~ said a determined Al-Qassimi. ~Hamed cannot score points, so I will be watching Suhail Khalifa, Nasser and my brother Abdullah closely. Last year I had some problems and retired near the finish. It is time to make amends.~

Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari admitted that he had no intention of pushing in the first stage. ~Super specials are for spectators,~ said Nizar, with an impressive fourth-placed time of 2m 56s. ~They are where you lose rallies, not win them!~

~A win is the priority here in Oman if we are to close the gap on Nasser and Khalid at the top of the points' tables,~ said Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, who set a time of 3m 01s in the opening stage to hold sixth. ~I was third last year, so the goal is to go one or two places better.~

Several international entrants made the trip to Oman. Kenyan Don Smith was forced to miss the opening two rounds of the series, but teamed up with Sony Smith in a Subaru Impreza WRX and Austrian driver Andreas Wimmer made the trip from Western Europe with co-driver Michael Kolbach in a Stohl Racing Subaru.

Swiss-based German driver Edith Weiss also began her second successive regional event with co-driver Petra Peinkofer in a Skoda Octavia Kit Car and Cheshire-based chemist David Scialom entered the event in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 5.

Britain's Howard Paterson has been tackling events in the regional series since first appearing in Qatar in 1992. But this is his first visit to Oman with co-driver Sean Kukula.

~I finally made it here,~ said Howard, who is planning to return his trusty Volkswagen Golf GTI to the UK after the event. ~It has been a pleasant surprise. The people are so friendly and the stages are some of the finest that I have seen in the world. They are fast, flowing and great fun to drive - a cross between perfect Kenyan tracks and fast UK forests without the trees.~

Tomorrow (Thursday) is the first of two timed legs of Rally Oman 2005 in the Hajar mountains. Competitors leave the parc ferme area at the Jawharat Al-Satti complex at 08.00 hrs and head towards special stages in the Yitti, Arqi and Al-Hajer areas. There will be six timed sections, totalling around 138 competitive kilometres, before cars return to the overnight halt in Muscat.

Rally Oman 2005 - positions after SS1 (unofficial @ 18.05 hrs):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2m 50s
2. Hamed Al-Wahaibi (OM)/David Senior (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2m 52s
3. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Craig Parry (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2m 54s
4. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM)/Michael Michaelakis (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 2m 56s
5. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2m 58s
6. Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Ahmed Al-Ghaziri (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 3m 01s
6. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 3m 01s
6. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussain (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 3m 01s
9. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ziad Chehab (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 3m 02s
10. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 3m 04s
10. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 3m 04s

Ends

For further media information: Neil Perkins, Rally Oman 2005 Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Tel: + 968 24696351, Fax: + 968 2469 6225, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

For latest live results - www.omanrally.com

Date issued: 16/03/2005

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