MERC Syrian Automobile Club on track for next round of MERC

Syria International Rally 2005
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 6 of 8

For immediate release
Saturday, August 6th, 2005


Testing Syrian gravel stages lie in wait for international entry;
Bumper entry expected after Middle East summer break

DAMASCUS (Syria): It has been three months since competitors last tackled a round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, but the Syrian Automobile Club is putting the finishing touches to the route and timetable for the 6th Syria International Rally, round six of the increasingly-popular championship.

The event will run under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism and takes place on August 31st-September 2nd. The only tarmac round of the series in Lebanon was cancelled at the start of last month, thus reducing the number of rounds in this year's series from nine to eight.

Teams from all across the Middle East will face 16 timed special stages over 260 kms in the Sednaya and Maloula areas, north of Damascus, with eight timed sections in the agenda for Thursday, September 1st and a further eight the following day.

To bolster the strength of the organising team, local organisers hired the services of Sweden's Bengt Gustavsson to work in the role of Clerk of the Course and have recently appointed the FIA's Derek Ledger as a consultant to ensure that the event adheres to the latest FIA guidelines, including the controversial SupeRally format.

This is an idea which first began in the Australian Rally Series and was introduced into the FIA World Rally Championship this year. SupeRally was tried for the first time in the Middle East series in Oman in March and officially used in Jordan back in May.

The system enables drivers who have retired on the opening day of a rally to restart the following day with time penalties. But the controversial nature of the system also means that a top-seeded driver who fails to finish the opening leg can still finish in a higher position overall than a slower driver who has tackled the entire rally and score more points!

~I would like to welcome all competitors, team officials, guests and members of the media to Syria for our rally,~ said Hani Sheban, Chairman of the Organising Committee. ~It has been an integral part of the regional rally championship for five years now and we hope it continues to be one of the most popular rallies in the calendar.~

Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attityah - fresh from taking a maiden PWRC victory in the Rally of Argentina - is likely to be the man to beat in Syria. The Qatari has taken five victories so far in the region in 2005 and has a 20-point lead in the championship over the UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, who is closely followed by Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum. All three drivers have driven Subaru Impreza WRX STIs this season and their results have given Subaru a 10-point lead over Mitsubishi in the FIA Manufacturers' Championship standings.

~We are putting together the final touches to the route, the staffing of the media and rally offices and the positioning and logistics of the special stage, refuelling zone and service park marshalling,~ said Omar Elbacha, Deputy Chairman of the Organising Committee and Chief Safety Officer. ~The club is expecting all the championship regulars to attend this year and we hope that the event will be as well received as it was last year.~

In 2004, Syrian organisers moved the event from a base in Damascus and an overnight halt in the ancient Roman town of Palmyra to a permanent base in the mountains bordering Lebanon, north of Damascus, at the scenic town of Sednaya. The stages were much twistier and more technical than the high-speed sand flats of the eastern deserts and similar terrain is being used again this year.

The event will be based at the Sheraton Ma'aret Sednaya for the second time and officially starts from the Al-Jalaa Club Mezzah in Damascus on Wednesday, August 31st. The finish will take place at the Sheraton Ma'aret Sednaya on Friday, September 2nd. Additional support for the event 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


For further media information:
Lutfi Estwani, Chief Media and Press Officer, Tel : +963 11 232 3706, Fax: + 963 11 231 2785, Mob: + 963 93 234445 and E-mail: loutfi73@scs-net.org
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: 06/08/2005

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