MERC Al Ain to host Mid East opener in the UAE in January

2006 ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1 of 8

For immediate release
Thursday, December 22nd, 2005


Al-Ain to again host opening round of MERC;
UAE opener to precede seven further MERC events

ABU DHABI (UAE): The ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally will be held under the patronage of His Highness Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Minister of Interior, and will kick-start the 2006 FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) on January 25th-27th. The event will be organised by the Automobile and Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates.

Next year's prestigious rally series will be fought out over eight, two-day special stage rallies and the emirate of Abu Dhabi has again been chosen to get the series underway. For the second successive season the garden city of Al-Ain will play host to the rally, after the success of the inaugural event in the city last February.

Organisers are currently finalising details of the route and timetable, but officials have confirmed that the event will consist of two legs of gravel stages in the Al-Ain and Sweihan areas of Abu Dhabi.

~We are delighted to again host the opening round of next year's FIA Middle East Championship,~ said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Chairman of the Organising Committee and himself a 14-times FIA Middle East rally champion. ~The switch to Al-Ain last season was well received by competitors and the media and we are keen to build upon that success with another first class event at the end of January.~

Last year's FIA Middle East rally series was the best supported on record and officials are confident that the 2006 FIA Middle East Rally Championship will attract a whole host of the region's top drivers from as far afield as Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait and Syria.

Both the UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi have already pledged a full assault at the championship in 2006 and the UAE's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum is also determined to build upon the impressive return to the sport he made at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRX STi in 2005.

Next year's championship features several minor timetable amendments, with the Qatar International Rally slotting into the calendar as the second round in February. Registered teams will then head to the Sultanate of Oman in March and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan at the end of May for rounds three and four.

After a four-week break, the series will then resume with the all-tarmac Rally of Lebanon at the end of June, the Syria international Rally in September, a visit to the Troodos mountains in Cyprus at the start of November and the traditional finale in Dubai at the start of December. The Bahrain Motor Federation recently confimed that the Bahrain Rally will not run in 2006.

~We hope that everyone connected with this year's ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally enjoys their stay in Al-Ain,~ added Ben Sulayem. ~The city is looking forward to welcoming competitors, officials, VIPs and members of the media.~

The event will be based for the second season at the Hilton Al-Ain and will be supported by Finance House, the Abu Dhabi Travel Bureau, Sky Electronic Line, AMD for computers, Gulf Commercial Group for photocopiers, Emirates Computers for Nokia telephones and GTS Towing Services .

For further information on entries and full concessions, please contact the ATC of the UAE, P.O.Box 27487,
Abu Dhabi, UAE, Tel: + (971 2) 6212175, Fax: + (971 2) 6321593, E-mail: atcuae@emirates.net.ae


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, UAE International Rally Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, NCH Building, Upper Bar, Newport, Shropshire, TF10 7EH, United Kingdom, Tel: + 44 1952 825078, Fax: + 44 1952 825001, UK mobile + 44 7831 123153 and e-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com.
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

Date issued: 22/12/2005

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