MERC Rally Oman gets underway on Wednesday evening in Muscat

Rally Oman 2006
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3 of 8

For immediate release
Tuesday, April 4th, 2006


Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah heads top class international field;
Oman's challenge fronted by Al-Shanfari, Soomar and Georgiou Jnr.

MUSCAT (Oman): Rally Oman 2006, the third round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, gets underway with a ceremonial start at the Muscat Intercontinental Hotel at 16.30 hrs on Wednesday afternoon (April 5th) and a three-kilometre timed spectator stage at Maidan Al-Fateh in Wattayah, Muscat, at 19.45 hrs. Ahead of an international field of 22 cars, lie a further 16 timed gravel special stages in the scenic Hajar mountains on Thursday and Friday.

The Sultanate of Oman's premier motorsport event is being organised by Intevents under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism, with assistance from the Ministry of Sports Affairs, the Royal Oman Police, the Ministry of Interior, the MOD and Muscat Municipality. Event officials have attracted major support from Bank Muscat, Gulf Air and Intercontinental Hotels.

Leading the field into Wednesday's official start will be the defending regional champion and last year's Rally Oman winner Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and his Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson. The pair have won the opening two rounds of this year's series in Al-Ain and Qatar and have an eight-point lead in the championship over Qatari team mates Misfer Al-Marri and Adel Hussein.

While Al-Attiyah is the strong favourite to continue his winning streak, all eyes will be on the UAE trio of Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum. They currently lie third, fourth and fifth in the series and know that they must beat Al-Attiyah in Oman to stand any chance of moving ahead of the Qatari in the points standings.

With support from Pirelli and new sponsor, the Finance House, Al-Qassimi has been closely-matched with Al-Attiyah this season and was deprived of a win on the final stage in Al-Ain by an unstoppable stage time set by his rival. All three UAE drivers enjoy competing in Oman and are handily-placed to pressurise Al-Attiyah from the start. ~There will be nowhere to hide out there,~ admitted Khalid Al-Qassimi. ~We will have to find a top level pace to stand a chance of winning. If I can avoid the bad luck which has cost me dearly recently, then we have a good chance.~

While the Qatari duo and the UAE trio are expected to be at the front of the leaderboard, Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari will have other ideas. The former regional Group N supremo lines up with Oman-based Cypriot George Alcetrias. Khalid Soomar and 23-year-old Nicholi Georgiou - the son of former rally man Tony Georgiou - will bolster the home contingent and are sure to entertain the crowds at the Maidan Al-Fateh on Wednesday evening. Rally Oman will mark young Georgiou's first ever appearance on an international rally.

~It is great news for motorsport in Oman that we have a strong entry and good support from local sponsors for this event,~ said Colonel Salim bin Khalifa Al-Maskiry of the Oman Automobile Association. ~Our organising team has put on a challenging route with an innovative spectator stage on Wednesday and a compact format to comply with the demands of the FIA.~

Kuwaitis Meshal Al-Nejadi and Ahmed Al-Kharas were forced to withdraw from their 1600 duel shortly before the start and Mufeed Mubarak is likely to be Kuwait's front-runner in the main Group N category. He will line up at the official start on Wednesday evening with a host of other international drivers, including Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh, Britain's David Scialom, Jordan's Majan Tantash, Austria's Andreas Wimmer, UAE entrants Ron Oakeley and Yayha Al-Amri and German lady driver Edith Weiss.

Thursday's competitive action will consist of eight timed special stages around Al-Hajir, Al-Amrat and Jifnain, while Friday's slightly longer loop of seven gravel tests is concentrated in the Sawaqim, Arqi and Yitti areas. Rally Oman will draw to a conclusion with a repeat run through the three-kilometre spectator stage at 16.50 hrs on Friday afternoon (April 7th), prior to the official podium finish at 17.56 hrs.

Further support for Rally Oman 2006 comes from official communications partner Oman Mobile, leading energy drink producer Red Bull, Precision Tune Autocare, Automan magazine, Infocomm (the official WAP
Provider) and Baabood Computers.

FIA Middle East Drivers' Championship
positions after round 2 of 8:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 20 pts
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 12 pts
3. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 11 pts
4. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 10 pts
5. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE) 8 pts
6. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA) 6 pts
6. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA) 6 pts
8. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 3 pts
9. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT) 1 pt
9. Hassan Al-Sadadi (BAH) 1 pt

FIA Middle East Co-Drivers' Championship
positions after round 2 of 8:
1. Chris Patterson (GB) 20 pts
2. Adel Hussein (QA) 12 pts
3. Nick Beech (GB) 11 pts
4. Steve Lancaster (GB) 10 pts
5. Wael Marjan (UAE) 8 pts
6. Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) 6 pts
6. Killian Duffy (IRL) 6 pts
8. Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) 3 pts
9. Saad Al-Melaifi (KWT) 1 pt
9. Hamoud Al-Jabry (OM) 1 pt

1. Subaru 20 pts
2. Mitsubishi 16 pts


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2006 Rally Oman Press Officer, Media Centre, Maidan Al Fateh, Wattayah, Muscat. Tel: + (968) 2456 8039, Fax: + (968) 2456 8093, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153 or Dubai Mobile: + 971 50 361 6881, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

Date issued: 04/04/2006

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