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MERC International field prepares for start of UAE International Rally

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

For immediate release
Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

INTERNATIONAL FIELD PREPARES FOR
START OF UAE INTERNATIONAL RALLY

Jordanian, Omani, Bahraini and Saudi teams arrive in Al-Ain;
Two British drivers make the trip from the United Kingdom

AL AIN (UAE): An international entry of 27 teams will take part in the ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally, which starts in Al-Ain on Wednesday afternoon under the patronage of His Highness Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Minister of Interior.

Joining the pre-championship favourites Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, will be a host of leading drivers from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Sultanate of Oman, Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Bahrain.

~We have attracted a particularly strong entry for this event,~ said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Chairman of the Automobile Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates. ~All the major championship contenders are present and it promises to be a fascinating weekend's action. Several of the leading drivers have new cars and they are very closely matched.~

~After winning the last event in Dubai it has given me tremendous confidence to repeat that feat here,~ said the 2004 regional champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, who will drive a Ron Cremen-run car supported by the Italian tyre company Pirelli. ~It promises to be a really close championship this year, but my new car feels fantastic and I am looking forward to the start.~

Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari has been a regular in the championship since the mid-1990s and is relishing the prospect of tackling the opening round of the series in a new Cyprus-built Subaru Impreza WRX STi. Shanfari is one of the fastest drivers in the region and will team up with the experienced British co-driver Brian Hardie, making his first appearance in the championship. Hardie was a regular feature on European rallies in the 1980s and now resides in Northern Cyprus.

Jordan's Faris Bustami and Imad Juma'a finished a superb second overall in December's Dubai International Rally and lead the Hashemite Kingdom's challenge in Al-Ain. They will be supported by former Jordan Rally winner Amjad Farrah and co-driver Khaled Zakaria. Ammar Hijazi and Mazan Tantash will also take part from Jordan, while Bahrain's chances of victory rest with Hassan Al-Sadadi and Keith Wake in their trusty Subaru Impreza WRX STi. The pair were seventh overall in Dubai at the start of December.

Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Al-Marri will drive a third Cremen-run Subaru Impreza and has the experience of Oman's Hamoud Al-Jabry on the pace notes, while Ahmed Al-Sabban and Irish co-driver Killian Duffy return to the special stahes after missing the latter half of last season. No less than five Kuwaiti crews had originally entered the event, but, with the exception of Mufeed Al-Mubarak and Saad Al-Melaifi, they all withdrew as a mark of respect following the recent death of the Emir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah.

Two drivers have flown in from the United Kingdom to take part in the ADNOC Distribution-backed event. Manchester-based pharmacist David Scialom finished fifth overall in the recent Dubai Rally and returns with Irish co-driver Michael Morrisey - making his first appearance in the Gulf since the 2004 Dubai Rally - to try his hand at the Al-Ain stages in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 5. Scialom is joined by Cumbrian Simon Nutter and co-driver Sean Kukula, both regulars in the region in recent years.

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 .

Top 10 starters
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Nick Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
3. Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
4. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7
5. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Imad Juma'a (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8
6. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
7. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
8. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ziad Chehab (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8
9. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM)/Brian Hardie (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
10. Yayha Al-Amri (UAE)/Craig Parry (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi

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: 24/01/2006

For further information or assistance please contact:

NDP Publicity Services
Holly House, Station Road, Newport,
Shropshire TF10 7EN United Kingdom

Tel/Fax: +44 (0) 1952 825001
Mobile: + 44 (0) 7831 123153 (UK)

Email: ndppublicity@googlemail.com

Web: www.ndp-publicity.com

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