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MERC Khalid Al Qassimi holds slender lead in UAE International Rally

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

For immediate release
Thursday, January 26th, 2006

UAE'S KHALID AL-QASSIMI OPENS TITLE CHALLENGE
WITH FIRST LEG LEAD IN UAE INTERNATIONAL RALLY

Qatar's Al-Attiyah down in second place; Sheikh Suhail in third;
Bahrain's Hassan Al-Sadadi forced out by high-speed accident

AL AIN (UAE): The 2004 regional champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and British co-driver Nicky Beech held a 53-second advantage in the ADNOC Distribution UAE International Rally after the seven timed special stages of the opening leg in Al-Ain on Thursday. The event is being held under the patronage of
His Highness Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Minister of Interior and finishes on Friday afternoon.

The Pirelli-backed UAE driver had taken the battle to the defending FIA Middle East rally champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson from the start and beat his rival by 11 seconds in the 39.24 kms Al Mishab stage on Thursday morning, with Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum trailing behind. But Al-Attiyah fought back on the subsequent two stages to take a slender six-second lead over the UAE's Al-Qassimi into the Sweihan midday service point.

When the Qatari was forced to stop in the fifth stage to remove sand from a clogged air filter, Al-Qassimi inherited a lead of 1m 17s, leaving Al-Attiyah in a frantic tussle with Suhail bin Khalifa for second place. Al-Attiyah passed his UAE rival in SS6 by setting the fastest time and reduced Al-Qassimi's overnight lead to 53 seconds after the seventh stage to set up a fascinating final leg of sixth special stages on Friday.

Al-Qassimi remained in determined mood: ~I was pleased with my start, but I don't want to take too many risks. We need to be fast to match Nasser, but there is a fine line between fast and reckless. Now I have to adopt a waiting game on Friday. Now Nasser has to take the risks.~

~I adopted a different strategy on this rally,~ said Al-Attiyah. ~Khalid started well, but I decided to push harder on SS3 and SS4. It worked and I took the lead again. But then we had to stop because the air filter was blocked. Now I have to attack on Friday.~

Suhail bin Khalifa and Abdullah Al-Qassimi were third and fourth overall in their new Subaru Impreza WRX STis and Jordanian Amjad Farrah was the highest-placed Mitsubishi driver in fifth overall.

But the major drama from the opening leg revolved around the Bahraini driver Hassan Al-Sadadi. He and British co-driver Keith Wake survived a high-speed crash, which destroyed their Subaru Impreza WRX STi. ~It was a right turn after a long straight and I called this pace note to Hassan and then heard a loud bang,~ said his bruised co-driver.

~Then Hassan shouted out and we went over and over and over again. The accident seemed to go on forever. When I stopped I noticed that the engine was on fire and got out of the car and switched off the master switch and activated the fire extinguisher. Hassan was very dazed. He had a bruised eye and I immediately summoned a nearby marshal to call an ambulance. A helicopter was with us in a matter of minutes and Hassan was taken to hospital for observation. Our car is completely finished.~

~I would like to praise the speed and efficiency of our medical and rescue team and the work of the marshal on the scene for reacting so quickly,~ said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Chairman of the Automobile Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates. ~We have worked long and hard with safety on our rallies and this proves that the work has been successful. It is also a testament to the strength of modern-day rally cars that both crew members were not seriously injured. The FIA is very strict when it comes to car safety and they send a Technical Delegate to all rounds of the championship to ensure that strict safety criteria are met.~

There were a long list of early retirements after a dramatic opening leg in the Sweihan deserts: Lebanon's Michel Saleh sustained clutch problems with his Mitsubishi and, despite frantic work by his mechanics to get the car repaired, he was unable to start Thursday's six special stages. Qatar's Mohammed Al-Mannai was sidelined with engine woes before the restart on Thursday morning and American dentist Mike Ziegler wrecked his engine's oil cooler.

Britain's David Scialom retired with a damaged piston in his engine, Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah broke a piston ring in his Mitsubishi's engine in SS2 and team mate Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah broke an intercooler pipe in SS2, but hoped to restart under the SupeRally ruling on Friday. Jordan's Faris Bustami and Ammar Hijaizi, Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Al-Marri and Saad Faisal and Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari were also forced out with mechanical problems.

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.

Positions after SS7 - end of leg 1 (unofficial @ 15.45 hrs):
1. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Nick Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 23m 03s
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 23m 56s
3. Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 24m 30s
4. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 26m 27s
5. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 1h 27m 01s
6. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9 1h 2m 14s
7. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 27m 47s
8. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT)/Saad Al-Melaifi (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 1h 30m 04s
9. Sadiq Fadhel (UAE)/Imad Nabhan (UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 1h 30m 37s
10. Yayha Al-Amri (UAE)/Craig Parry (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 34m 45s

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: 26/01/2006

For further information or assistance please contact:

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