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MERC Al Attiyah wins in thrilling finale to Rally Oman 2005

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

For immediate release
Friday, March 18th, 2005

QATAR'S AL-ATTIYAH EXTENDS SERIES LEAD
WITH VICTORY IN THRILLING RALLY OMAN

Al-Qassimi wins battle with Al-Maktoum for second place by one second!; Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri and Oman's Al-Shanfari crash out

MUSCAT (Oman): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson clinched victory in Rally Oman 2005 and extended their FIA Middle East Rally Championship lead to six points after 14 timed special stages in the Hajar mountains of the Sultanate of Oman, today (Friday).

The event was held under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism, with support from the Oman Automobile Association, Muscat Municipality, Omantel, Qwat Jabal and Intevents.

The revelation of the second day was the form of Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum. The UAE driver began leg two in third position in his Subaru Impreza WRX STi and set the fastest time in the eighth stage. He repeated the feat in SS9 to move ahead of the defending champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi in his Power Horse-supported Subaru Impreza WRX STi. But Al-Maktoum took an 18-second chunk out of Al-Attiyah's overall advantage in one stage alone.

The Qatari had reached the end of the opening leg with a damaged piston in his Subaru's engine and was unsure whether he would be able to reach the end of the rally. ~The car sounds like a 1973 Ford Cortina,~ groaned Al-Attiyah's co-driver Chris Patterson. ~It was a matter of taking it easy today and trying to will the car to the finish.~

Against the odds and with an engine running on three cylinders, Al-Attiyah managed to take the fastest time in the 10th stage, when Al-Maktoum damaged his steering seven kilometres from the finish and Al-Qassimi erred on the side of caution. With four stages remaining, Al-Attiyah had a 2m 15s advantage over his rivals, who were tied to the second after nearly two hours of competition.

Al-Qassimi edged back into outright second place in the 11th stage with the fastest time, as he reduced Al-Attiyah's lead to 1m 59s. But time was running out for both UAE drivers to catch the stricken Qatari Subaru. Al-Qassimi took a 30-second chunk out of Al-Attiyah's lead in the 12th Al-Atkiya stage and moved eight seconds ahead of Al-Maktoum, but only a 21 kms stage and the 2.60 kms super special remained to overturn a 1m 29s deficit.

It was not enough. Al-Attiyah dramatically beat his rival by four seconds in the penultimate stage and assured an almost certain victory. But the runner-up position was only settled on the final spectator test, when Al-Qassimi confirmed second overall by a mere one second in a stunning climax.

~We gave it our best shot, but it was not enough,~ admitted Al-Qassimi. ~I don't think that the engine problem was as serious as Nasser's team made out. The engine lasted all day. But second place means eight more points on the board.~

Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri had been running as high as fourth overall, as he attempted to maintain third position in the championship. He slipped to fifth behind Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi after SS7 and then rolled his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution out of contention in the ninth stage. Nizar Al-Shanfari duly moved up to fifth position in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, but the Omani driver retired in the 10th stage after damaging the oil cooler.

Abdullah Al-Qassimi overcame late suspension problems to take fourth position and leading Mitsubishi, while Jordan's Amjad Farrah and Saudi's Ahmed Al-Sabban completed the top six. Oman-based veteran Tony Georgiou was 10th, behind the seventh-placed leading Omani Khaled Soomar, Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Kuwait's Mufeed Mubarak. Kuwait's Meshal Al-Nejadi arrived in the Sultanate of Oman with a two-point lead in the Super 1600 series and steered his Citroen Saxo to victory again.

Oman's Hamed Al-Wahaibi took advantage of new FIA Super Rally regulations to restart the second leg of the rally for testing and development purposes with his new British co-driver David Senior. Al-Wahaibi heads off to New Zealand next week to take part in his first round of the 2005 FIA Production World Rally Championship. Rally Oman is the first event in the regional series to introduce the new Super Rally regulation, which may well come into force on all rallies from the Jordan Rally in May.

Meanwhile, the next round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship will be the Mitsubishi Qatar Rally on April 14th-16th

Rally Oman 2005 - overall positions after SS14:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 31m 45s
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Craig Parry (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 33m 14s
3. Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Ahmed Al-Ghaziri (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 33m 15s
4. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2h 41m 05s
5. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 2h 43m 22s
6. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 43m 23s
7. Khalid Soomar (OM)/Yousof Al-Zadjuli (OM) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 2h 47m 26s
8. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 2h 48m 36s
9. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT)/Saad Al-Melaifi (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2h 49m 07s
10. Tony Georgiou (OM)/Nabil Njeim (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2h 50m 35s

FIA Middle East Drivers' Championship
positions after round 3 of 9:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 30 pts
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 24 pts
3. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE) 12 pts
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 9 pts
4. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA) 8 pts
6. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA) 7 pts
7. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 5 pts
8. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE) 4 pts
8. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT) 4 pts
8. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 4 pts
10. Hassan Al-Sadadi (BAH) 3 pts
10. Mashari Al-Daffari (KWT) 3 pts
13. Khaled Soomar (OM) 2 pts
14. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KWT) 1 pt
14. Asem Aref (HKJ) 1 pt

FIA Middle East Co-Drivers' Championship
positions after round 3 of 9:
1. Chris Patterson (GB) 30 pts
2. Michael Orr (GB) 16 pts
3. Killian Duffy (IRL) 9 pts
3. Adel Hussein (QA) 9 pts
5. Ahmed Al-Ghaziri (RL) 8 pts
5. Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) 8 pts
7. Nasser Al-Kuwari (QA) 6 pts
7. Steve Lancaster (GB) 6 pts
9. Saad Al-Melaifi (KWT) 5 pts
9. Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) 5 pts
11. Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) 4 pts
12. Keith Wake (GB) 3 pts
12. Yousof Al-Zadjuli (OM) 3 pts
12. Abdullah Al-Hajer (RL) 3 pts
15. Jassim Jamal (KWT) 1pt
15. Burhan Abu Qura (HKJ) 1 pt

Super 1600
1. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KWT) 20 pts
2. Shaker Al-Raeis (KWT) 16 pts

Manufacturers
1. Subaru 30 pts
2. Mitsubishi 24 pts

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: 18/03/2005

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