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MERC Al Attiyah holds leg one lead in Jordan Rally

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

For immediate release
Friday, May 6th, 2005

QATAR'S NASSER SALEH AL-ATTIYAH
OPENS UP LEAD IN JORDAN RALLY

Gripping duel between UAE's Sheikh Khalid and Sheikh Suhail for second place;
Retirements for Jordan's Abu Samra, Bustami, Farrah and Al-Majali

AMMAN (Jordan): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson held a 2m 50.2s advantage over the UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr after nine timed special stages of the first leg of the Jordan Rally today (Friday).

The UAE's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum and Lebanese co-driver Ahmed Ghaziri held third position after slipping behind their Subaru team mates on the final Dead Sea stage of the day.

Thirty-three cars began the opening special stage this morning and it was Al-Attiyah who edged into a nine-second lead over Al-Qassimi, with Jordan's Amjad Farrah and Suhail Khalifa in third and fourth places through the Sultani stage, south of Amman. Farrah was sidelined with mechanical problems in the second Qatrana stage, where Al-Attiyah extended his advantage over Al-Qassimi to 21 seconds.

Through the Lajun special Al-Attiyah's lead rose to 45 seconds, as Suhail Khalifa set the second fastest time to move within 11.3 seconds of the defending regional champion Al-Qassimi in the Power Horse-supported Subaru Impreza WRX STi. Al-Attiyah continued to extend his advantage during the course of the leg, as Al-Qassimi and Al-Maktoum fought a fascinating tussle for second place. Al-Maktoum moved ahead late on only to be deprived of second place on the ninth stage by a resurgent Al-Qassimi, who heads into the final day 2.7 seconds ahead.

~I am not happy at all,~ said Al-Qassimi. ~I had a spin on SS3 and a problem with the right suspension arm.~ Team mate Suhail Khalifa, on the other hand, was in confident mood. ~Because we were running at two minute intervals there was a lot of dust in the air,~ said Suhail Khalifa. ~There was no wind at all and the dust was hanging and making it very difficult to see.~

There were several early retirements. Jordan's Marouf Abu Samra was forced out with a broken axle after the first stage, the UAE's Rashid Al-Ketbi suffered a terminal first stage puncture and Jordan's Nancy Al-Majali broke down on the road section to the start of the first stage.

Last year's Cypriot runner-up Andreas Tsouloftas held fourth place, despite teething problems with his new co-driver Ioannis Evripidoy, and Lebanon's Abdu Feghali - competing in the Jordan Rally for the first time - held fifth position in the leading Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, ahead of Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al-Sabban.

Faris Bustami was the leading Jordanian until he retired in the sixth stage. Lebanon's Michel Saleh and Bahrain's Hassan Al-Sadadi were the main beneficiaries, but Saleh was eventually towed out of the eighth stage with gearbox problems. This left Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri, Sadadi, Britain's David Scialom and Yuval Melamad to complete the top 10 at the end of the leg.

Kuwait's Mufeed Mubarak was sidelined with rear differential problems in the third test and Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah - lying fourth in the regional championship - was demoted to the Super Rally on Saturday when alternator failure caused battery problems on his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Kuwait's Shaker Al-Raies retired with suspension problems in his Citroen Saxo.

Tomorrow's second leg (Saturday) offers 10 special stages in the picturesque area around the Dead Sea, Mount Nebo and Rumman. Cars leave parc ferme at 06.00 hrs, before heading into the stunning Turki special, a sinuous stage near Mount Nebo and a third modified section overlooking the Dead Sea.

These stages are repeated after a regrouping and service from 08.14 hrs and the afternoon timetable consists of repeat runs through stages at Rumman and Wadi Shueib, west of Amman. The ceremonial finish will take place in Hussain Gardens in Amman at 18.30 hrs.

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).

Unofficial positions after SS9 (top 8 only):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 10m 55.2s
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 13m 45.4s
3. Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Ahmad Ghaziri (RL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 13m 48.1s
4. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY)/Ioannis Evripidoy (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 1h 16m 04.3s
5. Abdo Feghali (RL)/Joseph Feghali (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 1h 16m 42.2s
6. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 18m 19.3s
7. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 1h 20m 51.1s
8. Hassan Al-Sadadi (BAH)/Hamoud Al-Jabry (OM) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 26m 39.8s

*All results exclude Super Rally penalties and cars set to restart on Saturday

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 Abusaleh, Arabic Press Officer, Mobile + 962 (0) 79 5701734, E-mail: wisam_mm@emirates.net.ae, Fax: + 962 5864825.

www.jordanrally.com



Date issued: 06/05/2005

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