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MERC Bumper entry set to tackle opening FIA Middle East event in Al Ain

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

For immediate release
Monday, January 23rd, 2006

BUMPER ENTRY SET TO TACKLE OPENING
FIA MIDDLE EAST RALLY IN CITY OF AL-AIN

Al-Ain spectator stage to kick-start 2006 rally season

ABU DHABI (UAE): A timed 'super special' stage in the picturesque garden city of Al-Ain will kick-start this year's 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, this weekend.

~This is the first time that I have been involved in the UAE International Rally since it moved from a traditional start in Abu Dhabi to a base in Al-Ain,~ said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Chairman of the Automobile Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates. ~But I know that the event was well received last year and we are confident that this year's rally will get the year's action off to an exciting start. I always enjoyed competing on this event and had an excellent winning record.~

The event is the opening round of this year's eight-event FIA Middle East Rally Championship and the five- kilometre gravel spectator stage will officially get this year's three-day event underway at 16.25 hrs on Wednesday afternoon.

Ahead of an international field of 27 cars lie a further 12 timed desert special stages in the Sweihan and Al-Ain regions of the Abu Dhabi emirate on Thursday and Friday, with the event reaching a conclusion at the Hilton Hotel in Al-Ain at 15.48 hrs on Friday afternoon.

~We have maintained a similar route to 2005, but made some minor modifications and improvements to some of the stages,~ said Clerk of the Course John Spiller. ~There were a couple of sections that have been omitted this year and one stage will run in reverse, but the nature of the terrain is very similar to the first event that ran here last February.~

The opening leg will offer the timed spectator stage on Wednesday and six timed stages on Thursday, totalling 168.28 kms. This leg features two runs through the punishing 39.24 kms Al-Mishab special and two stages called Dunes and Al-Ashush, with the competitive action split by service stops in the town of Sweihan.

The second and final leg on Friday features a further six special stages closer to Al-Ain. Three stages will be repeated twice, before surviving crews return to the Hilton Hotel for the podium finish at 15.48 hrs.

Several of the leading crews in the regional series will debut brand new cars on the opening round of the 2006 series. Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and the UAE's Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa al-Maktoum and Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi will wheel out brand new Spec-C Subaru Impreza WRX STis, built by Prodrive in England, and the former regional Group N champion Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi will use a Subaru Impreza WRX STi for the first time after making the switch from a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8.

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 .

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, UAE International Rally Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Media Centre, Hilton Hotel, Al-Ain, UAE, Tel: + 971 3 7686396, Fax: + 971 3 7686323 and UAE mobile + 971 (050) 3616881 and e-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com.
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)
and
Atala Abusaleh, UAE International Rally, Arabic Press Officer, Mobile: + 971 50 6469853, e-mail: wisam_mm@emirates.net.ae

Date issued: 23/01/2006

For further information or assistance please contact:

NDP Publicity Services
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