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MERC Khalid Al Qassimi leads field into Jordan Rally

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

For immediate release
Thursday, May 5th, 2005

DEFENDING FIA MIDDLE EAST CHAMPION AL-QASSIMI
LEADS INTERNATIONAL FIELD INTO JORDAN RALLY

Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah aims for fifth successive MERC win;
Record 202 media attend Jordan's WRC candidate rally

AMMAN (Jordan): Defending FIA Middle East Rally Champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr lead an international field of 38 teams into the first special stage of the Jordan Rally on Friday morning. The event is the fifth round of the 2005 regional series and reaches a conclusion in Amman on Saturday evening.

At the wheel of his Power Horse-backed Subaru Impreza WRX STi, Al-Qassimi currently trails series leader Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah by 16 points in the championship, but is confident that he can match his arch rival over the 19 timed stages which have been laid on by Jordan Motorsport for this WRC candidate event. Al-Attiyah has four wins to his credit this season and a fifth successive victory would put him in a virtually unassailable position in the points' tables.

~There is no doubting that Nasser has made a good start to the year,~ admitted Al-Qassimi. ~But this rally is a different story and we will give it our best shot. Events happened in Qatar which were out of our control and it was disappointing to retire there. It just makes me more determined to win in Jordan.~

Also contemplating taking a first victory in the regional series since the early 1990s is a resurgent Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, fresh from third place finishes in Bahrain and Oman and the runner-up spot in Qatar last month. Al-Maktoum trails Al-Qassimi by a mere four points and is confident that he will win a Middle East event in the very near future.

With the exception of Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, all this year's championship contenders have made the trip to Amman and Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah will be looking to consolidate his fourth position in the series. Team mate Misfer Al-Marri was running well on the last rally before losing ground on the championship leaders. He is sure to be locked in a fierce battle with Jordan's leading driver Amjad Farrah, Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al-Sabban and Lebanon's Michel Saleh for a podium finish.

This year's event will mark the first time that the FIA's new SuperRally regulations have been used in Jordan, enabling drivers to restart the second day with time penalties if they retire from day one. The system was introduced into the regional series in Qatar last month and Amjad Farrah was the first driver to benefit in terms of points-scoring.

Several Jordanian teams, led by Faris Bustami, Marouf Abu Samra and Nancy Al-Majali, grace the entry list, where they are joined by a host of international drivers, including Bahrain's Hassan Al-Sadadi, last year's runner-up Andreas Tsouloftas from Cyprus, Lebanon's Abdo Feghali in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 and Britain's David Scialom.

Super 1600 cars are also eligible to compete and Kuwait's Meshal Al-Nejadi leads the field in his nimble Citroen Saxo. The Kuwaiti holds a six-point lead over fellow countryman Shaker Al-Raeis in this year's championship, but further competition in Jordan comes from his brother Essam Al-Nejadi and the Jordanian duo of Abir Batikhi and Raed Bdeir.

~We are delighted to welcome all our competitors, VIPs and international media to Jordan for what we hope will be a successful candidate rally for the WRC,~ said Tarek Tabba'a, Chairman of the Organising Committee. ~Many people have worked long hours to make this event possible, as we hope to progress towards our goal of hosting a round of the FIA World Rally Championship in the near future.~

A record number of 202 journalists, television crew and photographers had received media accreditation in Amman prior to the start of the competitive action this morning. Among the visitors are an ISC-affiliated film crew from the UK and WRC reporters and photographers from Germany, Hungary, the United Kingdom and Austria. No less than 15 television networks sent crews to film the event this year, including the Jordan, Dubai, Kuwait, Qatar, Al-Jazira, Abu Dhabi, ART, True, JMP, LBC, APTN, ISC, Sky Sports and Nourmina networks.

Tomorrow's opening leg (Friday) offers nine timed special stages in the deserts to the south of Amman. Cars leave the parc ferme zone at 06.00 and head into a 114 kms road liaison section before tackling two timed stages at Sultani and Qatarana. A further two stages take place at Lajun and Shehba mid-morning, before a return to the Dead Sea Service Park is planned from 11.20.

Competitors then tackle repeat runs through the morning's four special stages, before the day's action draws to a close with a run through the shortened Dead Sea stage at 17.55. Friday's timetable consists of a total route of 509 kms of which around 130 kms will be competitive.

The Jordan Rally is 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).

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. 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 (HKJ) 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

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
9. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM) 5 pts
9. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE) 5 pts
11. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT) 4 pts
12. Hassan Al-Sadadi (BAH) 3 pts
12. Mashari Al-Daffari (KWT) 3 pts
14. Khaled Soomar (OM) 2 pts
14. Michel Saleh (RL) 2 pts
16. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KWT) 1 pt
16. Asem Aref (HKJ) 1 pt

FIA Middle East Co-Drivers' Championship
positions after round 4 of 9:
1. Chris Patterson (GB) 40 pts
2. Michael Orr (GB) 16 pts
3. Ahmed Al-Ghaziri (RL) 16 pts
4. Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) 14 pts
5. Killian Duffy (IRL) 10 pts
6. Steve Lancaster (GB) 9 pts
6. Adel Hussein (QA) 9 pts
8. Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) 8 pts, etc

Super 1600
1. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KWT) 30 pts
2. Shaker Al-Raeis (KWT) 24 pts

Manufacturers
1. Subaru 40 pts
2. Mitsubishi 32 pts

Ends

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

www.jordan-motorsport.com



Date issued: 05/05/2005

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