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CC Qatar Baja gets underway on Thursday afternoon

NBK Group Qatar Baja 2005
FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, round 5

For immediate release
Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

QATAR BAJA GETS UNDERWAY
ON THURSDAY AFTERNOON

Spain's Blazquez and Portugal's Sousa fight for FIA Baja title;
Qatar's Al-Attiyah and Al-Hajri favourites for car and quad titles;

DOHA (Qatar): The NBK Group Qatar Baja gets underway in Doha at 2pm on Thursday afternoon and an international field of 29 cars, 61 motorcycle riders and 27 quads will tackle the final round of the FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas. The event will finish on Saturday afternoon and is being held under the patronage of HH Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Prime Minister of Qatar.

Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec will use the 503.51 competitive kilometres to complete a final test session with their German-built BMW X5 before January's Dakar Rally. But European attention will focus on the intriguing battle between Spain's Marc Blazquez and co-driver Ignacio Salvador and the Portuguese pairing of Rui Sousa and Carlos Silva to decide the outcome of the world Baja series.

Supported by Nissan Spain, Blazquez will take the start with a seven-point lead in the championship over his Mitsubishi rival, courtesy of a maximum 15-point haul in the Baja Vodafone Portugal back in May and seven points earned in July's Baja Spain Aragon around Zaragoza.

Sousa began his year with maximum points in Italy, but failed to add to his points tally in Spain and Portugal, where Mitsubishi factory drivers Joan Roma and Luc Alphand took maximum points. Dakar Rally preparations have kept the Mitsubishi duo away from the Qatar Baja, although Roma has fond memories of the event after finishing second overall last November on his team debut.

Germany's Sven Knorr, the Italians Giuseppe Fornasari and Franco Corradin, Russian Sergei Shmakov and Qatar's Khalifa Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani will also want to stake a claim for the podium positions. The remainder of the car entry is made up of Qatari, Italian, Kuwaiti and Lithuania drivers.

Twelve months ago the UAE's Tim Trenker won a fascinating battle with Italy's Oscar Polli to win the Qatar Baja and he tops the seeds for the weekend's action in the motorcycle category. Spain's Pau Soler, Italy's Giovanni Stefani and Polli himself will be the closest motorcycle challengers, while the UAE's Khalid Khamis Ozair had been running as high as fourth overall in the recent UAE Desert Challenge before falling back and will be aiming for the podium.

A strong motorcycle contingent includes two Austrian riders, eight German entrants, 13 from the UK, 14 from Italy and entrants from Ireland, Lithuania, Spain, Qatar and the UAE. Including in the impressive line-up of 27 quads are 10 Italians, 10 Qataris, a German rider and six making the short trip from the UAE. They include Qatar's Abdulrahman Al-Hajri and UAE front-runner Atif Al-Zarouni.

~It is a great honour for us to host the final round of this year's FIA Baja Cup for the first time and we hope that everyone has an enjoyable and safe event,~ said Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, President of the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation. ~Our team has tried to lay on a challenging route with a wide variety of terrain and I am sure that it will be a good test for our European and GCC competitors.~

Tomorrow (Thursday) the official start of this year's NBK Group Qatar Baja will take place outside the QMMF building, near the Ramada Hotel, at 14.00 hrs (Doha time), when the first bikes will cross the starting ramp en route to the opening 'super special' stage, near the Ritz Carlton Hotel on West Bay Lagoon, at 14.30 hrs. The first cars will cross the starting ramp at 15.00 hrs and begin the opening 4.60 kms gravel special at 15.30 hrs.

In a total route of 655.49 kms over the three days, 503.51 kms or 76.8% will be competitive. The event has attracted support from the NBK Group, Qatar National Bank, NK Portakabin, Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Navigation.

FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas
Positions after round 4 of 5
1. Marc Blazquez (E) 22 pts
2. Rui Sousa (P) 15 pts
2. Luc Alphand (F) 15 pts
2. Joan Roma (E) 15 pts
5. Stephane Henrard (B) 13 pts, etc

Top seeds
Cars
1. Mark Blasquez (E)/Ignacio Salvador (E) Nissan
2. Rui Sousa (P)/Carlos Silva (P) Mitsubishi
3. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5
4. Sven Knorr (D)/Torsten Frohlich (D) Mercedes
5. Giuseppe Fornasari (I)/Enzo De Michelis (I) Fornasari

Bikes
1. Tim Trenker (D) KTM
2. Pau Soler (E) KTM
3. Giovanni Stefani (I) KTM
8. Oscar Polli (I) KTM

Quads
1. Abdulrahman Al-Hajri (QA) Yamaha
2. Mohammed Al-Shamsi (UAE) Honda
3. Adel Hussain (QA) Yamaha
4. Klaus Hoffmann (D) Extreme
5. Atif Al-Zarouni (UAE) Honda

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, NBK Group Qatar Baja 2005 Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Media Centre, Barzan Meeting Rooms, Movenpick Hotel, Doha, Qatar, Tel: + 974 4364181, Fax: + 974 4291111
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com, www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)
and Atala Abousaleh, NBK Group Qatar Baja, Arabic Press Officer, Dubai mobile: + (971 50) 6469853, e-mail: wisam_mm@emirates.net.ae


Date issued: 23/11/2005

For further information or assistance please contact:

NDP Publicity Services
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Tel/Fax: +44 (0) 1952 825001
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