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MERC Nasser Al Attiyah cruises to victory in Qatar Rally

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

For immediate release
Saturday, May 7th, 2005

UNSTOPPABLE NASSER AL-ATTIYAH TAKES
EMPHATIC VICTORY IN JORDAN RALLY

UAE's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum wins duel for second place;
Third overall for Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi; Jordanian honours for Marouf Abu Samra

AMMAN (Jordan): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson clinched victory in the 2005 Jordan Rally and continued their march towards a second FIA Middle East Rally Championship title in three years. The Subaru duo are now unbeaten in the regional series since last September, after reaching the finish of the 19-stage event 3m 49s minutes ahead of Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum and Lebanese co-driver Ahmed Ghaziri, today (Saturday).

~This is always a long and difficult rally,~ said Al-Attiyah. ~But it was another great result for me and good practice for the WRC rally in Cyprus next week. My team were fantastic and we had no major problems with the car. Now I am in a very strong position in the championship with 50 points and five wins.~

The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr finished third overall in their Power Horse-supported Subaru Impreza WRX STi, after an epic duel with their UAE team mates and Lebanon's Abdo Feghali took fourth place in the leading Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al-Sabban leapt to fourth in the championship with fifth overall and Cypriot Andreas Tsouloftas completed the top six.

~It was a really intense fight between Suhail (Khalifa) and myself for second place,~ said Al-Qassimi. ~Suhail complained that he had too hard a tyre compound this morning and I was running with no anti-lag system. It was a computer problem, but it caused me to brake very late on a corner in SS14 and I lost about half a minute. There were never more than a handful of seconds between us. It was a great battle.~

Thirty-three cars left the start in Amman on Thursday evening and, with the exception of the UAE's Rashid Al-Ketbi, Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Bahrain's Hassan Al-Sadadi, all of Friday's major retirements restarted Saturday morning's 10 special stages around Rumman and the Dead Sea and on to the finish at the King Hussain Gardens in Amman. Sadadi withdrew in protest at the controversial Super Rally system, which saw him demoted from eighth overall to starting 14th on the road this morning once first leg retirements were reinstated.

Al-Attiyah was again first out of the starting blocks today, setting fastest time in the opening three stages of the leg to extend his lead to over three minutes. Al-Qassimi regained second position from Al-Maktoum and the pair traded seconds throughout the morning. Jordan's Amjad Farrah - running again under the Super Rally rules - lost nine minutes in SS11 with mechanical problems. He was down in 17th position after SS15, but Jordanian countrymen Faris Bustami and Marouf Abu Samra were running in ninth and 10th places and Abu Samra eventually finished as the leading Jordanian.

Kuwaiti 1600 front-runner Meshal Al-Nejadi joined Nancy Al-Majali, Raed Bdeir and Ahmad Mihyar on the growing list of retirements and handed the 1600 spoils to Kuwait's Shaker Al-Raeis.

Al-Attiyah extended his lead in the first Rumman stage, as Al-Qassimi closed to within 0.6s of Al-Maktoum for second position. For the third successive event the UAE team mates were embroiled in a thrilling tussle and Al-Qassimi moved into a two-second lead through the Wadi Shueub stage. The fight for the runner-up spot was settled in Al-Maktoum's favour over the final stage. He was beaten by Al-Qassimi by 15.8 seconds in SS18, but beat the defending champion by 25 seconds in the final timed test.

This year's Jordan Rally attracted a total of 207 accredited media and no less than 15 television networks. It is one of the candidate rounds for future inclusion in the FIA World Rally Championship and was observed by FIA officials on this occasion, where it lines up against candidate events in Portugal, South Africa and, potentially, China, Poland and Ireland.

This year's event was 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).

Positions after SS19 (unofficial top 7 only):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 31m 23.4s
2. Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Ahmad Ghaziri (RL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 35m 12.6s
3. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 35m 19.2s
4. Abdo Feghali (RL)/Joseph Feghali (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2h 41m 22.3s
5. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 42m 06.3s
6. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY)/Ioannis Evripidoy (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 2h 43m 31.5s
7. Marouf Abu Samra (HKJ)/Malek Hariri (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2h 53m 45.6s

FIA Middle East Drivers' Championship
positions after round 5 of 9:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 50 pts
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 30 pts
3. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE) 28 pts
4. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA) 14 pts
5. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA) 13 pts
6. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 9 pts
6. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 9 pts, etc

FIA Middle East Co-Drivers' Championship
positions after round 5 of 9:
1. Chris Patterson (GB) 50 pts
2. Ahmed Al-Ghaziri (RL) 24 pts
3. Michael Orr (GB) 22 pts
4. Killian Duffy (IRL) 15 pts
5. Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) 14 pts
6. Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) 11 pts, etc

Manufacturers
1. Subaru 50 pts
2. Mitsubishi 40 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 Abusaleh, Arabic Press Officer, Mobile + 962 (0) 79 5701734, E-mail: wisam_mm@emirates.net.ae, Fax: + 962 5864825.

www.jordanrally.com



Date issued: 07/05/2005

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