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MERC Outgoing champion Al Qassimi vows to end reign in style

2005 Dubai International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 8 of 8

For immediate release
Monday, November 28th, 2005

OUTGOING CHAMPION AL-QASSIMI
VOWS TO END HIS REIGN IN STYLE

UAE's Sheikh Abdullah suffers injury blow;
Hassan Al-Sadadi to represent Bahrain in Dubai

DUBAI (UAE): Last year's FIA Middle East rally champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi has pledged to push as hard as he can on this weekend's Dubai International Rally in a bid to end his one-year reign as regional champion in winning style. The two-day event is being held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Department.

Sheikh Khalid clinched the series in Dubai last December with Ulster co-driver Michael Orr after a season-long battle with Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah. He won events outright in Bahrain and Syria on his way to a maiden title, but Al-Attiyah has benefited from Al-Qassimi's misfortune on several events this year to sweep to a second title in three seasons in record time.

Al-Qassimi is not phased by his rival's recent record. ~The organisers have made some changes to the route and I think that they are very positive,~ said Sheikh Khalid. ~I am looking forward to the event. It will be quite a a battle out there, but I am ready for it. My recent record in the Dubai Rally has not been good. I have taken part four times and only finished twice and one of those retirements was a bad crash. Maybe I am cursed on this rally.~

While Sheikh Khalid and his British co-driver Nicky Beech prepare for their second event together this season - they finished second overall in Syria in September on their first rally - Khalid's brother Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi lost his battle against time to be fit for the official start at the Al-Bustan Rotana Hotel on Thursday morning.

~I carried out quite a bit of testing last week to get ready for the rally and I damaged a chest muscle and shoulder,~ said Al-Qassimi, speaking from the hospital. ~It has been very painful and I have been taking medical advice. I decided to wait before making a final decision on whether to start, but my doctor advised rest and that means no rally. It is very disappointing, because we had totally rebuilt the car and I was looking forward to having a really good push on Thursday.~

Sheikh Abdullah is a multiple Group N regional champion and returned to the series in Syria to take a fine third overall with his retuned Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. ~We proved in Syria that we are back on the pace,~ added Sheikh Abdullah, who suffered several mechanical failures on earlier rounds of the series and lost his chance of taking a maiden overall title.

Hassan Al-Sadadi will be under pressure to reach the finish as the sole entrant from the Kingdom of Bahrain. Al-Sadadi has been a regular on rounds of the series for several seasons and has achieved several notable performances in his under-funded Subaru Impreza WRX STi.

The Kingdom will not host a round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship in 2006, as the Bahrain Motor Federation and Bahrain International Circuit concentrate their resources on the opening round of the FIA Formula One World Championship. But Al-Sadadi is keen to continue representing the island in the regional rally series. ~I enjoy coming to Dubai and competing,~ said Al-Sadadi. ~This year I have every belief that I have a chance of making the podium. It is very disappointing that there will not be a rally in Bahrain next season.~

Meanwhile, Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum was racing against time to ensure that he had a car prepared to take part in the event. Currently lying third in the Driver's Championship, the UAE driver had hoped to use a new car in the Dubai Rally, but this was not ready and he was contemplating switching to an older practice car as we closed for press.

This weekend's Dubai International Rally has further support from Emirates Petroleum Production Company (TASJEEL), the Rehab Rotana Hotel and Al-Jumeira Rotana Hotel, Gulf Commercial Group, Emirates Computers, Sky Electronics, AMD and GTS, the recovery and towing company.

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Media Centre, Salsabeel Room, Lower Ground Floor, Al Bustan Rotana Hotel, Dubai, UAE, Tel: + 971 50 6459647, Fax: + 971 4 7054182, Dubai mobile + (971 50) 3616881 and e-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com.
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

and

Atala Abousaleh, 2005 Dubai International Rally, Arabic Press Officer, Dubai mobile: + (971 50) 6469853, e-mail: wisam_mm@emirates.net.ae

www.dubairally.com

Date issued: 28/11/2005

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