MERC Qatar International Rally gets underway in Doha on Friday

2005 Mitsubishi Qatar International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 4 of 9

For immediate release
Thursday, April 14th, 2005 (embargoed until 12.00 hrs)


Defending regional champion Khalid Al-Qassimi leads bumper entry;
Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah aims to clinch four successive victories

DOHA (Qatar): The Mitsubishi Qatar International Rally gets underway on Friday morning and will offer 10 timed gravel special stages in a total route of over 568 kms. The fourth round of the 2005 FIA Middle East Rally Championship has been organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) and will use the impressive facilities at the Losail International Circuit for the first time.

No less than 35 teams - the largest entry in the series this season - will tackle the two-day event, which began with a ceremonial start at the Qatar National Museum on Thursday evening in Doha. But the real competitive action gets underway with the first timed special stage at Umm Sial at 09.26 hrs on Friday.

Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah is the man to beat in the Middle East region in recent months. With the exception of his dramatic retirement from the gruelling Dakar Rally in January and his fourth place in the PWRC category of the recent Rally of New Zealand, Al-Attiyah has won every event he has tackled since last October - a winning streak which includes championship successes in Cyprus, Dubai, Al-Ain, Bahrain and Oman and a win in last November's Qatar Baja. He and co-driver Chris Patterson will start as favourites to win the Qatar Rally for a second successive season in their Autotek-run Subaru Impreza with support from Qatar Peteroleum.

~The New Zealand result was a major boost for my confidence,~ admitted Nasser. ~I was lying second before delays and only missed out on third by two seconds. Now I must convert that pace into another Middle East rally win.~

But Al-Attiyah will be mindful that the defending champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi has also been blessed with an impressive run of consistent second places in his Power Horse-sponsored Subaru Impreza WRX STi. After his Syria Rally victory last September, Al-Qassimi has taken the runner-up spot in Dubai, Al-Ain, Bahrain and Oman and arrives in Doha a mere six points behind Al-Attiyah in the points' standings.

~There is no doubting my consistency in recent rallies,~ said Al-Qassimi. ~Now it is time to up my performance level and try and beat Nasser on his home rally. It will not be easy, but I am well prepared for my first rally in Qatar.~

Dubai's Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum jumped into championship contention with two excellent podium finishes on the last two rallies in Bahrain and Oman in his Cremen-run Subaru Impreza WRX STi. He and co-driver Ahmed Al-Ghaziri will be hoping to build on those results in Qatar, where the Losail Rally Team drivers Misfer Al-Marri and Khalifa Al-Attiyah will also be hoping to add to the points they scored on early rounds. Misfer holds fourth in the series, two points ahead of his team mate, who rolled out of contention in Bahrain.

~The stages will be very fast,~ said co-driver Ahmed Ghaziri. ~If one of the top three gets a puncture it will spell the end of their chance of winning. Corner cutting and risk taking could be expensive.~

Sharjah's Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi put his first points on the board in Oman, after two mechanical problems on rounds one and two and he lines up alongside the likes of the UAE's Rashid Al-Ketbi, Kuwait's Mufeed Mubarak, Jordan's top driver Amjad Farrah and Lebanon's Michel Saleh - the veteran chasing his first points of the season. Partnered by Britain's Craig Parry, Bahrain's Hassan Al-Sadadi will also be hoping to add to his points tally of three, which sees him lying equal 10th in the Drivers' Championship with Farrah and Kuwait's Mashari Al-Daffari.

Oman will be represented by Khalid Soomar and the pointless Nizar Al-Shanfari, determined to make amends for a disappointing start to the year in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7. Saudi Arabian hopes rest with Majed Al-Gamdi, Syria is represented by Bashar Abou Koura and Mohammed Al-Mannai, Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah, Sadoon Al-Kuwari and Yousef Al-Kuwari bolster the Qatari entry.

International entrants include America's Mike Ziegler, Italy's Agostino Ontano, Britain's Raj Jutley and David Scialom, Germany's Edith Weiss and Austrian Andreas Wimmer. Qatar's Nada Zaidan will be tackling her second Qatar Rally since entering the sport last February and is the top female entrant. She has the experienced British girl Gemma Price reading the pace notes for her for the first time.

Prior to the midday regrouping at Losail, teams will tackle a second stage at Al-Waab and a third 26.44kms Abuthayla special. Stages will be repeated on Friday afternoon and then there will be a final service at Losail, before cars return to an overnight parc ferme area at the QMMF, near the Ramada Hotel, in Doha.

Additional support for the Mitsubishi-backed event comes from NK Portakabin, Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Automobiles Company, QNB and the Losail circuit.

Top 10 starters:
1. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
3. Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Ahmad Ghaziri (RL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6
6. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
7. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8
8. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT)/Saad Al-Mulaifi (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8
9. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8
10. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
11. Hassan Al-Sadadi (BAH)/Criag Parry (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi

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) 9 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
10. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 3 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) 10 pts
4. 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
10. Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) 4 pts
10. 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

1. Subaru 30 pts
2. Mitsubishi 24 pts


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2005 Mitsubishi Qatar International Rally Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, The Media Centre, Losail Circuit, State of Qatar, Tel: + 974 472 8675, Fax: + 974 4728613, Mobile: + 974 5791227
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)


Date issued: 14/04/2005

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