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MERC Syrian Automobile Club launches Syrian Rally

Syria International Rally 2005
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 6 of 8 (Lebanon cancelled)

For immediate release
Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

SYRIAN AUTOMOBILE CLUB ANNOUNCES
NEW-LOOK SYRIAN INTERNATIONAL RALLY

Sweden's Bengt Gustavsson appointed new Clerk of Course;
New gravel stages for next round of Middle East rally series

DAMASCUS (Syria): The Syrian Automobile Club announced details of the 6th Syrian International Rally today (Tuesday). The event will run under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism and is the sixth round of the eight-event FIA Middle East Rally Championship and takes place on August 31st-September 2nd, 2005.

The Syrian round of the regional series ran as an FIA candidate event for the first time in 2000 and was accepted into the championship for the first time the following season. Since then it has become one of the most popular rounds of the series and will be based at Sednaya, north of Damascus, for a second consecutive season after three years utilising an overnight halt at Palmyra in the eastern deserts.

~Changing the rally area from Palmyra to Saydnaya was well received,~ said Omar Elbacha, Deputy Chairman of the Organising Committee and Chief Safety Officer. ~Using mountain gravel roads instead of the desert was a first in the FIA Middle East Championship and it saved teams and officials a lot of effort in changing hotels during the rally.~

The event is the next round of the hotly-contested series, following the recent decision to cancel this year's Rally of Lebanon. Last year's Syrian event was won by Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, who went on to win the regional championship for the first time in his Subaru Impreza WRX STi. He is likely to face a fierce challenge this year from runaway series leader Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and UAE-based rival Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, in addition to a strong field of drivers from Syria, Jordan, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.

Officials, teams and members of the media will again stay at the Sheraton Ma'aret Sednaya, although the event will officially start from the Al-Jalaa Club Mezzah in Damascus at 16.00 hrs on Wednesday, August 31st. Ahead of what the organisers hope will be a bumper entry will be two days' of special stage action along twisty and technical gravel stages in the hills around Sednaya and Ma'aloula. The podium finish and prizegiving will take place at 16.00 hrs at the Sheraton Ma'aret Sednaya on Friday, September 2nd.

~The area of Saydnaya has a unique and holy atmosphere,~ said Khaled Atassi, Deputy Chairman of the Organising Committee and Route Manager. ~Its people are friendly and interested in the motor sport. The town is only a short distance from Damascus and this makes it easy for anyone to follow the rally.~

The Syrian Automobile Club has appointed a new Clerk of the Course to oversee this year's event. Sweden's Bengt Gustavsson is a former Clerk of the Course of the Oman International Rally and has worked in a similar capacity on recent rallies in Abu Dhabi and Dubai on behalf of the Automobile Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates.

~Bengt is an experienced and well respected member of the international rally community and is a welcome addition to our organising team,~ said Hani Shaban, Chairman of the Syrian Automobile Club. ~We hope that this year's Syrian International Rally will be the strongest in the five years since we joined the regional championship.~

Entries open next week for the all-gravel rally and close on Wednesday, July 27th. Teams will be permitted to carry out a full recce of the route on Monday, August 29th and Tuesday, August 30th. Additional support so far received comes from Areeba, the Sheraton Ma'aret Saydnaya and Hamsho International.

For further information, contact the Syrian Automobile Club, Rue 29 May, P.O. Box 3364, Damascus
Syria, Tel: + 963 11 232 3706, Fax: +963 11 231 2785, E-mail: sport@syrianautomobileclub.com
Website: www.syrianrally.com; www.syrianautomobileclub.com

Ends

For further media information:
Lutfi Estwani, Arabic Press Officer, Tel : +963 11 232 3706, Fax: + 963 11 231 2785, Mob: +963 93 234445 and E-mail: loutfi73@scs-net.org
or
Neil Perkins, English Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, NCH Building, Upper Bar, Newport, Shropshire, TF10 7EH, United Kingdom, Tel: + 44 1952 825078, Fax: + 44 1952 825001, Mobile + 44 7831 121353, E-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)






Date issued: 14/06/2005

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