MERC Al Qassimi aims to put challenge back on track in Jordan
2005 Jordan International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 5 of 9
For immediate release
Saturday, April 30th, 2005
KHALID AL-QASSIMI AIMS TO PUT MIDDLE EAST
CHAMPIONSHIP BID BACK ON TRACK IN JORDAN
Defending champion Al-Qassimi looks for outright win in Jordan Rally;
UAE's Al-Qassimi pledges full support to Jordan's ambitious WRC bid
AMMAN (Jordan): The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi heads into this weekend's Jordan International Rally, round five of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, determined to make ground on early series leader Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah. The three-day event begins with a ceremonial start in Amman from 16.00 hrs on Thursday, May 5th.
Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr are the defending FIA Middle East Rally Champions, but lost ground on Al-Attiyah in the Qatar Rally last month when they retired their Power Horse-sponsored Subaru Impreza WRX STi with suspension problems on the final stage. That disappointment means that Al-Qassimi arrives in Amman 16 points behind the Qatari in the overall championship, with the UAE's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum breathing down his neck in third position, a mere four points behind.
Al-Qassimi has shown a consistent turn of speed this season and finished second overall on three occasions in Al-Ain, Bahrain and Oman, prior to the Qatar disappointment. He had closed to within striking distance of Al-Attiyah's Subaru through the boulder-strewn special stages in the Qatari desert before his Ron Cremen-run Subaru struck a large rock on the track and punctured a tyre on the penultimate stage. The resultant blow damaged a ball joint and the Power Horse-supported driver found himself on the list of retirements for the first time this season.
~To say it was disappointing to retire in Qatar is an understatement,~ said Al-Qassimi. ~But it is never easy to go there and achieve a top result. Qatari drivers have a great record of success on their home event and I take heart from the fact that I took the battle to Nasser right up to the final stage. Michael and I were on a competitive pace from the start and that bodes well for the rest of the season.
~Nasser has a good lead in the championship, but we have already dropped one of our scores. When you take that into account and the fact that Nasser will have to do the same, then the gap is much closer. I spoke to Ron Cremen, my team manager, before the last couple of stages in Qatar and we agreed that I should push. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. That is rallying. Sometimes you are fortunate and sometimes there are factors which determine you do not finish.~
But Khalid is looking forward to the challenge of achieving success in this week's Jordan Rally. ~Jordan is bidding to become a round of the World Rally Championship and I think I speak for everyone involved in rallying in the Middle East when I say I wish them all the luck in the world in achieving their goal. It is a long and difficult rally and Michael and I are looking forward to challenging for the win.~
But Khalid faces a strong challenge in Jordan, not only from his nearest rivals Al-Attiyah and Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, but also from 38 other drivers on the record-breaking entry list. These include the talented Qatari duo of Misfer Al-Marri and Khalifa Al-Attiyah, Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al-Sabban, Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh and last year's Jordan Rally winner and local favourite Amjad Farrah.
After the ceremonial start in Abdoun on Thursday evening, there will be 19 special stages over two days in the Jordanian desert south of Amman and in the Dead Sea and Mount Nebo regions. The event will reach a climax in Hussein Gardens in Amman on Saturday, May 7th.
The Jordan Rally has also received a boost with support from the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, Greater Amman Municipality, Higher Council for Youth, Royal Jordanian and Jordan Tourism Board, Power Horse (Official Energy Drink), Chery International (Official Car), Marriott (Official Hotel) and Fast Link (Official Network Provider).
FIA Middle East Drivers' Championship
positions after round 4 of 9:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 40 pts
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 24 pts
3. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE) 20 pts
4. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA) 13 pts
5. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 9 pts
5. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA) 9 pts
7. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 8 pts
8. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 7 pts, etc