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MERC Innovative Rally Oman fires into life in Muscat

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

For immediate release
Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

INNOVATIVE RALLY OMAN
FIRES INTO LIFE IN MUSCAT

Qatar's Al-Attiyah feels the heat in the Sultanate of Oman;
Teams tackle thrilling floodlit 'super special' stage at Wattayah

MUSCAT (Oman): Rally Oman 2006 got underway on Wednesday afternoon with the official ceremonial start at the Intercontinental Hotel in Muscat followed by a floodlit special stage at Maidan Al-Fateh. Twenty-one cars were flagged away from the podium by His Excellency Mohammed Bin Hamoud Al-Tobi, Under-Secretary for Tourism and His Excellency Rashad Al-Hinai, Under-Secretary for Sports Affairs.

A massive crowd was expected to watch the start of the third round of this year's FIA Middle East Rally Championship, which 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.

~A lot of hard work has been put into this event by a great many people and we are delighted that everything came together in time for the start today,~ said Finnish Clerk of the Course Simo Lampinen. ~We have around 600 marshals and local police helping out to make sure that this event will be a success.~

Twenty-one cars were set to tackle the opening three-kilometre special stage at Maidan Al-Fateh in balmy spring evening temperatures of around 27 degrees Centigrade. Spectators were entertained by the Miami rock band, a Bank Muscat 100,000 Riyals ($260,000 US) prize draw and a driver parade, before cars took to the stage in pairs to race around four laps of the purpose-built floodlit track.

The first crew into the special stage were the UAE's Ron Oakeley, a former Group N regional champion, and Kenyan co-driver Alistair Cavanagh. They lined up against Oman's Khalid Soomar with his local navigator Ali Al-Arfi.

The leading 12 teams - six pairs - ran in reverse order, with defending champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah wheelspinning into life alongside his arch rival Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi. Jordanian Mazen Tantash of the Sports Academy Racing Team was the last driver scheduled to enter the spectator stage.

~I have a good feeling about this event,~ admitted Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, who drives a Subaru Impreza WRX STi with support from Pirelli and the Finance House. ~I have discussed the event with my team and we have to go out there over the weekend and make sure we give it our best shot. I've had some bad luck recently and this cannot go on.~

Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari was the local favourite. ~It is not a case of having to cope with the extra pressure of being the leading Omani driver,~ said Al-Shanfari. ~There are five of us flying the local flag and we will all try our best. I just want to enjoy the rally. Winning would be nice, but it is not everything and I just want to make sure that we have a successful and enjoyable event and the rally itself is a success.~

~I would like to welcome everyone to Oman and hope that we put on a safe and successful rally,~ said Colonel Salim bin Khalifa Al-Maskiry of the Oman Automobile Association and Chairman of the Organizing Committee.

Thursday's competitive action gets underway with the first of eight timed gravel special stages at Al-Hajir from 08.53 hrs. Teams will then tackle the 13.20 km Al-Amrat special and then utilise a 20-minute service point at Maidan Al-Fateh. The two specials are then repeated before entrants tackle two runs in the all-new Jafnain stage and the revised Airport Heights test. Rally Oman is scheduled to finish with the official podium finish at 17.56 hrs on Friday afternoon.

The Sultanate of Oman's premier motorsport event has attracted major support from Bank Muscat, Gulf Air and Intercontinental Hotels. Further sponsorship 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.

SPECIAL STAGE STOPPED ON SAFETY GROUNDS BECAUSE OF EXCESSIVE DUST......

Ends

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: 05/04/2006

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