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MERC Al Qassimi to lead international field into Dubai International Rally

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

For immediate release
Wednesday, November 30th, 2005 - 12.00 hrs

UAE'S AL-QASSIMI TO LEAD INTERNATIONAL FIELD
INTO DUBAI INTERNATIONAL RALLY ON THURSDAY

Qatar's Al-Attiyah bids for 10th successive MERC win;
Kuwait's Al-Nejadi and Al-Raeis fight for FIA 1600 title

DUBAI (UAE): The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and British co-driver Nicky Beech will lead a 28-car international entry from 15 nations over the starting podium of the 2005 Dubai International Rally on Thursday morning. The event is being held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Department.

The outgoing champion will be bidding to win his first event this season and trying to prevent the new FIA Middle East rally champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah from entering the history books by winning every round of this year's championship. Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson are unbeaten in the Middle East since last September and have taken a staggering 11 consecutive wins, including nine successive rounds of the regional series and two Qatar Bajas.

While this pair are the favourites to challenge for the outright victory, Jordan's Amjad Farrah is another serious contender for a podium finish. Last year's Jordan Rally winner heads a seven-car Jordanian team entry, which includes four-times Jordan champion Faris Bustami, newcomer Mazan Tantash, the experienced Asem Aref, Ammar Hijazi, Mohammed Juma and Ahmed Mihyar.

Saudi Arabian Abdullah Al-Marri will be taking part in only his second event this weekend with Omani co-driver Hamoud Al-Jabri. He competed in Syria in September and has recently acquired Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum's old Mitsubishi Lancer. The car will be run by the experienced Australian Ron Cremen, who is also running Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi. ~Abdullah is keen to progress in the sport and take part in more rallies,~ said Cremen. ~He is looking forward to the weekend.~

Lebanon's Michel Saleh took part in the very first Gulf Championship and he sees a podium finish as a very realistic goal on Friday afternoon. Saleh and co-driver Ziad Chehab will use a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7. Bahrain's sole entrant will be Hassan Al-Sadadi in his trusty Subaru Impreza, while Syrian hopes rest with Bashar Abu Khoura.

Kuwaiti entrants include championship challengers Mufeed Mubarak and Meshari Al-Thafiri, although both Meshal Al-Nejadi and Shaker Al-Raeis will resolve the FIA Super 1600 Championship this weekend. They take the start in a pair of Citroen Saxo VTSs and the goal for the winner will be the coveted 1600 title, with Al-Nejadi holding a six-point lead after seven rounds. He has taken four wins against his rival's single success and three second places. Al-Raies knows he must win the category and hope that Al-Nejadi fails to finish.

There are several non-Middle Eastern entrants, including Germany's Edith Weiss in her Mitsubishi, Austrian Andreas Wimmer in a Subaru, Italians Lonenzo Ontano and Domenico Caldarola and Britain's Simon Nutter and David Scialom. Cypriot Melissas Menelaos returns in his Mitsubishi in a bid to improve on the fine fourth place he earned last year.

UAE drivers feature in the lower ranks of the entry list. Sadiq Fadhel wheels out his Total Automotive Mitsubishi Lancer, former regional Group N champion Ron Oakeley enters his trusty Subaru and Chris Cargill and Yehya Al-Amri are also entered.

Misfortune befell several drivers before the start and five of the leading teams will be unable to start the event. Qatar's Khalifa Khalifa Al-Attiyah crashed heavily during last week's Qatar Baja and was hospitalised in Doha, the UAE's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum suffered the disappointment of not having a car prepared in time and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi withdrew with a shoulder and chest injury. Both Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri and Saudi Arabia's Majid Al-Ghamdi are also non-starters.

Tomorrow (Thursday) is the opening leg of the event, with the official start at the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel scheduled for 09.30 hrs. Teams will then tackle seven timed special stages, starting with the longest of the entire event - a punishing 27.25 kms test at Margham. Servicing is centralising at Ghantoot and further stages will take place in the Ghantoot, Seih Sheib and Jebel Ali areas of the Dubai emirate.

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.

Leading 10 starters:
1. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Nicky Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
6. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8
7. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT)/Saad Al-Melaifi (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8
8. Hassan Al-Sadadi (BAH)/Keith Wake (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
9. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Imad Juma'a (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8
10. Meshari A;-Thafari (KWT)/Faris Al-Thafiri (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8
11. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ziad Chehab (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8
12. Asef Aref (HKJ)/Burhan Abu Khoura (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6
14. Bashar Abu Khoura (SYR)/Omar Al-Haithem (SYR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6

FIA Middle East Drivers' Championship
positions after round 7 of 8:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 70 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. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY) 12 pts
9. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT) 11 pts, etc
* denotes champion

FIA Middle East Co-Drivers' Championship
positions after round 7 of 8:
1. Chris Patterson (GB) 70 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
* denotes champion

Manufacturers
1. Subaru 70 pts*
2. Mitsubishi 56 pts
* denotes champions

1600
1. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KWT) 40 pts
2. Shaker Al-Raies (KWT) 34 pts

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)

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: 30/11/2005

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