MERC Syria International Rally gets underway this week
Syria International Rally 2005
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 6 of 8
For immediate release
Sunday, August 28th, 2005
SYRIA INTERNATIONAL RALLY
GETS UNDERWAY THIS WEEK
Qatar's Al-Attiyah looks to secure second regional title;
Strong Syrian contingent for home special stage event
DAMASCUS (Syria): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah will be hoping to clinch his second FIA Middle East Rally Championship title, when he and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson start as favourites to win the Syria International Rally, north of Damascus, this weekend.
The Qatari won the series for the first time in 2003 and has taken five successive victories this season in his Subaru Impreza WRX STi. Should he manage to take a sixth victory of the year over the mountaineous special stages around Sednaya on Thursday and Friday, he will be in an unassailable position in the championship standings.
The Syria Rally ran for the first time in 2000 and joined the regional series the following season. It has established itself as one of the best rounds of the series and will be held under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism this weekend, with organisational support supplied to the Syrian Automobile Club by new Swedish Clerk of the Course Bengt Gustavsson and FIA event consultant Derek Ledger.
Syria will be strongly represented this weekend with no less than five local drivers set to challenge Al-Attiyah for overall honours. Mohammed Hamsho burst on to the rally scene two years ago in a powerful Subaru Impreza, but was injured while competing in the Dubai Rally at the end of that season. He was forced to miss the following championship and the opening rounds of this year's championship, but returns to head the Syrian Rally Team in his Subaru Impreza.
He is joined by Amir Arnaout and Mirar Al-Houmsi in a pair of Syrian Rally Team Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions and Bashar Abou Koura in his Areeba Rally Team Subaru. Haitham Al-Yousifi and Qatar's Abdulrahman Al-Hajri complete the Syrian Rally Team line-up in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7. Lebanon's Abdo Feghali and Joseph Mattar have also been entered under the Areeba Rally Team banner in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8.
While the UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi bids to challenge Al-Attiyah for the overall title with new co-driver Nicky Beech, his rival Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum has decided to miss the event to give his team time to prepare a new car for the Dubai International Rally at the start of December. Cypriot Andreas Tsouloftas and former Group N champion Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi could also feature on the podium on Friday.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is currently bidding to host a future round of the FIA World Rally Championship, but the Kingdom will be strongly represented in neighbouring Syria. Team Jordan driver Amjad Farrah and former championship-winning co-driver Khalid Zakaria currently hold sixth position in their respective championships and head the Jordanian contingent, which includes Mazen Tantash in his Sport Academy Racing Team Mitsubishi, Asem Aref and Faris Bustami in his Damas Rally Team Mitsubishi.
The Jordanian contingent is completed by lady driver Abir Batikhi in a two-wheel drive Opel Corsa and both Fateen Al-Baddad and Zayed Al-Baddad in a pair of Al-Baddad Rally Team Subarus.
Bustami, the former Jordanian National Champion, is joined in a five-strong Damas Rally Team by the UAE's Abdullah Tamjid and Sadiq Fadel, Germany's Edith Weiss and Kuwait's Meshari Al-Thafazri. Mufeed Mubarak and Super 1600 Championship front-runners Shaker Al-Raies and Meshal Al-Nejadi complete the Kuwaiti line-up, with Al-Raies taking a slender four-point lead into the Syrian event in his nimble Citroen Saxo.
Although Ahmed Al-Sabban will miss this weekend's event, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be represented by Khalid Al-Faisal in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 and Abdullah Armiri in a Subaru Impreza.
~We are delighted to welcome all the foreign teams and officials to this weekend's event,~ said Hani Sheban, Chairman of the Organising Committee. ~The popularity of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship increases each year and we at the Syrian Automobile Club are proud to be putting on an event of international stature again this year.~
The event is based at the Sheraton Ma'aret Sednaya and 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. There will be a total of 16 special stages in the Sednaya and Maloula areas, with additional support for the Syrian Automobile Club coming from Areeba, the Sheraton Ma'aret Saydnaya and Hamsho International.
FIA Middle East Drivers' Championship
positions after round 5 of 8:
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 8:
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
1. Subaru 50 pts
2. Mitsubishi 40 pts
1. Shaker Al-Raeis (KWT) 34 pts
2. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KWT) 30 pts
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