MERC Jordan Rally gets underway with spectacular opening ceremony

2005 Jordan Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 5 of 9

For immediate release
Wednesday, May 4th, 2005


HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussain outlines WRC aims for Jordan;
Defending regional champion Khaled Al-Qassimi leads 38-car field

AMMAN (Jordan): The Jordan Rally, the fifth round of the 2005 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, gets underway with a spectacular opening ceremony in the fashionable Amman suburb of Abdoun on Thursday afternoon.

Taking place in the Blue Fig area, the ceremony bursts into life at 16.15 hrs with a procession of classic and historic cars from the priceless collection of the late King Hussein. This world renowned array of automotive history includes numerous Ferrari, Mercedes, Porsche and American automotive models. The procession will be followed by live entertainment, featuring a military band and several local artists, and the Royal Falcons display team performing a spectacular aerobatic display from 16.30 hrs. A DJ will provide live music and entertainment throughout the opening ceremony.

Top seed and defending FIA Middle East Rally Champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi will then lead the international field of 38 teams over the podium at 17.00 hrs. Competitors will then face 19 timed special stages on Friday and Saturday in a gruelling route of over 1,230 kms through some of the most scenic terrain in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Event organisers have ambitious plans for the event to be included in a future FIA World Rally Championship and several VIPs and senior FIA officials attended the pre-event press conference at the Royal Automobile Club of Jordan on Wednesday evening.

HRH Prince Feisal Al-Hussain, Chairman of Jordan Motorsport, has called upon the world's media not to judge Jordan's bid for a round of the WRC this year. ~The Dead Sea is something unique we can bring to the WRC,~ he said. ~Nowhere else in the WRC can you race at 400 metres below sea level. This year's service park is a stepping stone towards a brand new purpose-built rally home that will be at a spectacular location overlooking the Dead Sea in 2006.

~This will be home to the Service Park, Media Centre and Rally HQ. These are ambitious plans that are in line with our vision to bring the WRC to the Kingdom in the future. It also means we will have to find a lot more stages closer to the Service Park in that area. Our team will be working hard in the next 12 months to ensure that our 2006 Middle East Championship rally will be up to the high WRC standards.~

Teams have spent the last two days carrying out a detailed reconnaissance of the two-day route, but they have been restricted to a maximum speed of 60 km/h by new WRC recce regulations and a passive satellite tracking system.

~The stages we saw south of Amman are excellent,~ said the UAE's experienced Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, lying third overall in the championship in his Subaru Impreza WRX STi. ~They are fast and tricky, but the road sections are long and will be tiring during the rally.~

Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson has guided Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah to four consecutive victories in the Middle East Championship this season and the Subaru pair will cross the podium in Abdoun on Thursday evening with a 16-point advantage over the defending FIA regional champions Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and co-driver Michael Orr in their Power Horse-supported Subaru.

~We had a good recce,~ admitted Patterson. ~It does make a big difference not being able to drive the stages at race speeds, but it is better for two reasons. It means that there is less damage to the tracks before the rally starts by cars constantly crossing the stages and our team managers are much happier because we inflict less damage on the recce cars!~

A Jordanian driver won the event for the first time in history last year, when Amjah Farrah and co-driver Khaled Zakaria clinched a dramatic victory on the final timed 'super special' stage. They head the local challenge again in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7, but fellow countrymen Marouf Abu Samra and Faris Bustami have shown an excellent turn of speed.

Local entrants Asem Aref, Mazen Tantash, Zayed Al-Baddad, Fateen Al-Baddad, Tamer Tabba'a, Ahmad Mihyar, Mohammed Juma and Raed Bdeir will also be hoping to achieve useful results on their home event.

~There is a general buzz of expectation around Jordan with this rally only hours away,~ said Jordanian female driver Nancy Al-Majali, who will wheel out a revised Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6. ~The organisers have worked so hard to raise the profile of the event to meet WRC standards and I am looking forward to a great competition with Abir Batikhi and Edith Weiss for the ladies' prize.~

The Jordan Rally is also supported by 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).

Leading 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. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6
6. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ziad Chehab (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
7. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
8. Marouf Abu Samra (HKJ)/Malek Hariri (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8
9. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY)/Ioannis Evripidoy (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
10. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6
12. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi


Neil Perkins, 2005 Jordan International Rally Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Tel: + 962 5864763, Mobile + 962 (0) 79 5701982, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com and Atala Abousaleh, Arabic Press Officer, Mobile + 962 (0) 79 5701734, E-mail: wisam_mm@emirates.net.ae, Fax: + 962 5864825.

www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

For more information, contact Jordan Motorsport on +962 6 5850626


Date issued: 04/05/2005

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