MERC Abdullah Al Qassimi aims to win maiden Middle East title in 2006

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

For immediate release
Thursday, January 5th, 2006


Former Group N regional champion determined to succeed in Al-Ain

ABU DHABI (UAE): Four-times FIA Middle East Group N Rally Champion Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi kick-starts his campaign to win the overall regional title for the first time, when he and co-driver Steve Lancaster tackle the 2006 ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally, being held under the patronage of His Highness Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Minister of Interior, on January 25th-27th.

Al-Qassimi was one of the most consistent performers in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship for a number of years, but only tackled select rounds of the series in 2005 after making a disappointing start to his challenge for a first outright title. He suffered bad luck and mechanical failures at the start of the season and soon slipped behind championship front-runners Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah.

The Sharjah-based driver reached the decision to miss the mid-season rounds of the championship and spoiled his title aspirations. But he bounced back with an excellent third overall in last September's Syrian International Rally at the wheel of his recently-rebuilt Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution rally car.

~Last season was disappointing for me and my disappointment was compounded by being forced to miss the last rally of the year in Dubai through a sudden illness,~ said Sheikh Abdullah, who is confident that he will head into the new season in a positive and attacking frame of mind.

Navigator Steve Lancaster, from Yorkshire in the United Kingdom, won the FIA regional co-drivers' championship in 2003 with Qatar's Al-Attiyah and enjoys competing in the region.

~I know that I have the pace and the consistency to win the championship in 2006,~ said Sheikh Abdullah. ~I will need some luck along the way. For the last two years I suffered some bad luck and lost my chance early on. I won this rally outright a couple of years ago when it was based in Abu Dhabi. The stages this year are different, but it would be nice to make a winning start to the year. My car is competitive now and I am looking forward to the start.~

Fourteen-times FIA regional champion Mohammed Ben Sulayem has competed against Sheikh Abdullah on numerous occasions and, in his new role as Chairman of the Automobile Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates, Sulayem is delighted to see his old adversary on the entry list.

~It was always a pleasure to compete against Abdullah,~ insisted Ben Sulayem. ~He is a very good driver and has featured in many of the rallies I tackled in my long Middle East rallying career. With some good luck and his natural determination, I am sure that he will be one of three or four drivers challenging for the title at the end of the year.~

Additional support for the 2006 ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally comes from 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 concessions for foreign and non Gulf-based teams, 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 www.atcuae.org


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, UAE International Rally Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, UK mobile + 44 7831 123153 and e-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com.
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)
Atala Abusaleh, UAE International Rally, Arabic Press Officer, Mobile: + 971 50 6469853, e-mail: wisam_mm@emirates.net.ae

Date issued: 05/01/2006

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