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MERC Al Attiyah leads after leg one of Rally Oman

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

For immediate release
Thursday, March 17th, 2005

QATAR'S NASSER AL-ATTIYAH
HOLDS LEAD IN RALLY OMAN

UAE's Al-Qassimi and Al-Maktoum hold podium places;
Oman's Al-Wahaibi sidelined with suspension problems

MUSCAT (Oman): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson led Rally Oman 2005 after seven timed special stages in the Hajar mountains of the Sultanate of Oman, today (Thursday). 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.

This morning the 21.60 kms Yitti stage developed into a fascinating tussle between Oman's Hamed Al-Wahaibi in a new Subaru Impreza WRX STi and Al-Attiyah, with the Omani moving into a one-second outright lead by beating his Qatari rival by three seconds. Dubai's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum was third, 38 seconds adrift of the flying duo, with the defending regional champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi fourth fastest in his Power Horse-supported Subaru Impreza WRX STi.

Al-Wahaibi extended his overall advantage to nine seconds in the 17.45 kms Arqi test, as he and A-Attiyah pulled away from the chasing pack, headed by Khalid Al-Qassimi, Al-Maktoum, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri. But a broken wishbone sidelined Al-Wahaibi in the fourth stage and handed a sizeable advantage to Al-Attiyah. The Qatari duly won the fifth stage and extended his lead over Khalid Al-Qassimi to 2m 09s at the end of the day, as Al-Qassimi lost further time with slight damage to the car.

~I knew that Hamed would push today,~ said Al-Attiyah ~I was not on the limit for the first two stages, but started to attack a little in SS4. Now I have a good lead. It is not an easy rally, but I will back off a little, keep up a fast pace but take less risks.~

~Craig (Parry), my new co-driver, is doing a great job, but I have missed my usual co-driver Michael Orr,~ said second-placed Al-Qassimi. ~We have worked well together for a long time and have a great system in the car. There were a couple of times where I lacked confidence in the stage and it didn't help being stuck for about 30 seconds in the dust of the course opening car in SS2.~

Suhail Khalifa Al-Maktoum held third position - despite incurring a one-minute time penalty - ahead of the UAE's Abdullah Al-Qassimi, Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri and Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al-Sabban with Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari completing the top seven. Al-Maktoum took his first outright fastest time of the season in the sixth stage and repeated it in SS7, as Subaru held the top three places for the second successive event in the series.

Oman-based Tony Georgiou started from a seeding position of 19 and was classified fifth overall after the opening stage in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. The Lebanese driver was running inside the top 10 at the end of the day, closely following Oman's Khalid Soomar and ahead of 10th-placed Jordan's Amjad Farrah.

Joining Al-Wahaibi on the list of early retirements were Lebanon's Michel Saleh, Britain's Howard Paterson, Bahrain's Hassan Al-Sadadi and Kuwait's Essam Al-Nejadi with terminal mechanical problems.

Tomorrow (Friday) is the second of two timed legs of Rally Oman 2005 in the Hajar mountains. Competitors leave the start at 08.00 hrs and head out towards special stages in the Al-Amrat, Wadi Al-Lehluu and Al-Atkiya areas.

There will be a total of seven timed sections, split by service near the Muscat Intercontinental Hotel. Wednesday evening's 2.60 kms 'super special' stage will be repeated at the Oman Automobile Club at 16.23 hrs, before the finish takes place adjacent to the Jawharat Al-Shatti complex at 16.50 hrs on Friday afternoon.

Rally Oman 2005 - top 10 positions after SS7 (unofficial @ 15.55 hrs):

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 20m 44s
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Craig Parry (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 22m 53s
3. Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Ahmed Al-Ghaziri (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 23m 12s
4. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 1h 24m 35s
5. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussain (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 1h 24m 36s
6. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 26m 46s
7. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM)/Michael Michaelakis (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 1h 27m 03s
8. Khalid Soomar (OM)/Yousof Al-Zadjuli (OM) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 1h 28m 36s
9. Tony Georgiou (OM)/Nabil Njeim (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 1h 28m 40s
10. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 1h 30m 00s

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: 17/03/2005

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