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MERC Nasser Al Attiyah leads after day one in Qatar

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

For immediate release
Friday, April 15th, 2005

AL-ATTIYAH TAKES LEG ONE LEAD
IN QATAR INTERNATIONAL RALLY

UAE's Khalid Al-Qassimi in second place; UAE's Sheikh Suhail in third
Qatar's Zaidan, Jordan's Farrah and Kuwait's Mubarak hit trouble

DOHA (Qatar): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson were the leaders of the Mitsubishi Qatar International Rally, round four of the 2005 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, after six timed special stages of the opening leg, today (Friday).

Twenty-nine cars started the two-day event, being organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) in the deserts around Doha and it was Al-Attiyah who set the fastest time through the opening Umm Sial stage.

The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr held second position in the Power Horse-sponsored Subaru Impreza WRX STi, 24.8 seconds behind the Qatari, with Jordan's Amjad Farrah and the UAE's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum in third and fourth. Al-Attiyah maintained his advantage over the next stage, where Farrah succumbed to a flat tyre and a suspension problem.

Over the remaining four tests, all the leading drivers eased off to conserve their cars on rocky stages, where teams found it difficult to find the exact line along a myriad of possible tracks. Al-Attiyah finished the leg 56.8 seconds ahead of Al-Qassimi, with Al-Maktoum and the Qatari duo of Misfer Al-Marri and Khalifa Al-Attiyah completing the top five.

~I am happy so far,~ said Nasser. ~It is not an easy rally at all. You cannot push too hard, because you do not know if you will break the car. I eased off a little, but am pleased with my lead.~ Al-Qassimi slipped behind his rival over the latter stages, but was still confident of catching the Qatari. ~The plan is to increase the pace and try and catch Nasser on Saturday,~ admitted Al-Qassimi.

~It was not a good start for me,~ said third-placed Al-Maktoum. ~You really need accurate pace notes on these stages. There are so many tracks and it is difficult to find the correct one. I'm sure that they should extend the GPS corridor to 100 metres to cater for this. Then I had a centre differential problem in the third stage and that cost me more time.~

Lebanon's Michel Saleh hopes to have a new car in Jordan, but he suffered a catalogue of problems today on his way to sixth. ~What a start to the day,~ groaned the veteran. ~I got lost in the notes in the first stage. It was not our fault. There are so many possible tracks and it was difficult to find the right one. Then Abdullah (Al-Qassimi) had a problem and we followed him for eight kilometres.

~He did not know we were behind until the final hairpin and then let us through. I also damaged the sump guard on the stage and we were losing oil. I managed to top the engine up and we made it to service. But it is incredibly rough and difficult.~

Behind Saleh, Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari had lifted himself into an impressive seventh position, with Saudi Arabia's Majed Al-Ghamdi making a successful transition to a Group N Subaru and holding eighth overall. Former regional Group N champion Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi slipped to ninth and Austria's Andreas Wimmer completed the top 10, with Jordan's Faris Bustami in 11th position.

This year's event marked the first time that the FIA's SupeRally regulation had been officially imposed on a round of the regional series and the first competitor to benefit from the rule change - which permitted him to restart on Saturday had he so wished with substantial time penalties - was the UAE's Sadiq Fadhel.

He ruined his winning aspirations even before the start when his co-driver Wael Marjan overslept at the hotel in Doha and the pair incurred a substantial time penalty for leaving the start control late. Their costly 30-minute mistake put them OTL (over time limit) and already into a SupeRally situation.

American Mike Ziegler also went out on the first stage, transmission problems put Kuwait's Mufeed Mubarak and the UAE's Rashid Al-Kebti out of the running and a broken steering arm sidelined Qatar's Nada Zaidan - the only female driver in the event.

The second leg of the Mitsubishi Qatar International Rally takes place tomorrow (Saturday) and gets underway at 08.30 hrs. There will only be four special stages - two runs through the 20.59 kms Tinbak stage and the new 36.20 kms Jeri Masad test. There will be a final service at Losail from 14.00 hrs and the podium is planned at Qatar's Moto GP facility at 14.30 hrs.

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

Positions after SS6 (top 7 only):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 21m 33s
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 22m 29s
3. Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Ahmad Ghaziri (RL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 25m 33s
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 1h 26m 41s
5. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 1h 31m 00s
6. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ziad Chehab (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 1h 33m 32s
7. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM)/Michael Michaelakis (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 1h 35m 45s

For latest Qatar Rally live results go to: www.nersresults.co.uk

Ends

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)

www.qmmf.com

Date issued: 15/04/2005

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