MERC Al Attiyah clinches Middle East title with victory in Syria

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

For immediate release
Friday, September 2nd, 2005


UAE's Al-Qassimi relinquishes title after brave challenge;
Jordan's Farrah takes fourth place; fifth for Syria's Al-Houmsi

SEDNAYA (Syria): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah clinched his second FIA Middle East Rally Championship in three years by winning the 6th Syrian International Rally, round six of the regional series, today (Friday).

Partnered by Northern Ireland's Chris Patterson - who secured his first
regional co-drivers' title - Al-Attiyah had extended his 57 second
overnight advantage over Sheikh Khaled Al-Qassimi to 2m 25s after 13 timed special stages over remote, twisty tracks in the hills, near Sednaya and Maaloula, north of Damascus.

But Al-Attiyah had been fortunate. Al-Qassimi incurred two minutes of road penalties changing a rear suspension arm on a road section and was unable to benefit from beating Al-Attiyah by around 40 seconds in the 11th stage when the Qatari sustained two slow punctures.

The pair exchanged times over the subsequent stages, as Al-Qassimi refused to relinquish his title without a fight. The UAE driver won the 14th and 15th stages, but the Qatari redressed the balance in SS16 to lead by 1m 55s and eventually emerged victorious by a winning margin of 1m 59s to record his first Syrian Rally victory and his sixth successive triumph in the region this year.

Al-Attiyah has now been unbeaten in the Middle East region since the Syria Rally last September. His success also moved Japanese manufacturer Subaru 12 points clear of arch rivals Mitsubishi in the FIA Middle East Manufacturers' Championship.

~It was not easy to push hard on these stages,~ said Al-Attiyah. ~To drive hard was also putting you in a position where you risked wrecking the car. But I am delighted to have broken my run of bad luck in Syria and won here for the first time. Securing the championship was the priority this weekend and we can now go to Cyprus and Dubai and enjoy the last two rallies without any pressure.

~I hear rumours that Mohammed (Ben Sulayem) is thinking of making a return next year. If this is true I look forward to it. The extra competition will be great for the championship.~

Qassimi was understandably disappointed at losing his regional title. ~It was so frustrating,~ said Al-Qassimi. ~I pushed hard, but we broke the rear arm and it was impossible to control the rear of the car in tight corners. We lost two minutes making repairs on the road and then gained some time on the next stage. There was always a chance that we could regain the time. I just needed a little bit of luck. I had nothing to lose and just decided to push right to the end to try and put pressure on Nasser all the time.~

Former regional Group N champion Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi made some minor differential setting changes to his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 before the restart this morning. He began the day 41 seconds ahead of Jordan's Amjad Farrah and quickly extended his advantage, as Farrah suffered centre differential problems and struggled to eat into the UAE driver's advantage. Problems on the second run through the Maloula stage spelt the end of the Jordanian's challenge for third place.

~I started this morning and was quite hopeful that I could catch Abdullah,~ said a disappointed Farrah. ~The three drivers in front were cutting corners and dislodging rocks into the track. I think we must have hit one quite hard, because it damaged the differential sensor. It was not easy to control the car in corners for two stages.~

Syria's Mirar Al-Houmsi finished in fifth position with Lebanese co-driver Ziad Chehab and the UAE's Sadiq Fadhel completed the top six in his Mitsubishi. Jordan's Faris Bustami finished seventh overall.

Electrical problems forced Bahrain's Hassan Al-Sadadi to restart the second leg under the SupeRally ruling, where he was joined by Syria's Bashar Abou Khoura, Kuwait's Mufeed Mubarak, Jordan's Mazen Tantash, Saudi Arabia's Khalid Al-Faisal and the Kuwaiti Super 1600 duo of Meshal Al-Nejadi and Shaker Al-Raies.

Kuwait's Meshal Al-Nejadi was one of the beneficiaries of the SupeRally
system and benefitted from the terminal transmission problems which
blighted team mate and rival Shaker Al-Raies on Thursday to stay in
contention for the Super 1600 Championship with two events remaining.

Syria's Haitham Al-Yousifi and his Qatari co-driver Adel Hussein had been running as high as third overall during the opening leg, but they were later penalised for a pair of jump starts and handed a 10-minute penalty for a route infringement. The Syrian duly dropped out of the top 10 and decided against restarting the second leg on Friday. Chassis damage thwarted Abdo Feghali's chances of restarting under SupeRally conditions this morning. He had damaged the car in a third stage wadi on Thursday.

Additional support for the Syria Rally came from Areeba, Sheraton Ma'aret Sednaya, Almadina FM and Hamsho International. Round seven of the regional series will be the Nicosia-based Troodos Rally in Cyprus on October 6th-9th.

Positions after SS17 (provisional):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 47m 31s
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Nicky Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 49m 30s
3. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2h 54m 34s
4. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2h 59m 53s
5. Mirar Al-Houmsi (SYR)/Ziad Chehab (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 3h 00m 17s
6. Sadiq Fadhel (UAE)/Yazan Rizla (SYR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 3h 09m 25s
7. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Imad Juma'a (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6
3h 13m 43s, etc

FIA Middle East Drivers' Championship
positions after round 6 of 8 (unofficial):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 60 pts
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 38 pts
3. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE) 28 pts
4. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA) 14 pts
4. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 14 pts
4. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 14 pts
7. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA) 13 pts
8. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 9 pts, etc

FIA Middle East Co-Drivers' Championship
positions after round 6 of 8 (unofficial):
1. Chris Patterson (GB) 60 pts
2. Ahmed Al-Ghaziri (RL) 24 pts
3. Michael Orr (GB) 22 pts
4. Steve Lancaster (GB) 17 pts
4. Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) 17 pts
6. Killian Duffy (IRL) 15 pts
7. Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) 14 pts, etc

1. Subaru 60 pts
2. Mitsubishi 48 pts


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Neil Perkins, English Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Mobile + 44
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E-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com, www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)


Date issued: 02/09/2005

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