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MERC Al Attiyah extends Middle East series lead with Rally Oman win

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

For immediate release
Friday, April 7th, 2006

QATAR'S NASSER AL-ATTIYAH EXTENDS MIDDLE
EAST SERIES LEAD WITH VICTORY IN RALLY OMAN

UAE's Suhail bin Khalifa takes second; Oman's Al-Shanfari in third;
UAE's Al-Qassimi stages fightback in vain; Fourth for Qatar's Al-Marri

MUSCAT (Oman): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson extended their lead in the 2006 FIA Middle East Rally Championship to 13 points by taking a commanding victory in Rally Oman, round three of the regional series, today (Friday).

~This was a difficult rally and one which I knew I needed to win to take a good lead in the championship,~ said Al-Attiyah, who survived a late scare with a puncture on the final spectator stage. ~The stages in Oman are fantastic. This event was good experience for me before I go to Argentina for my next round of the World Championship. I worked hard to take this win and I must thank all my team for a great effort.~

Second place fell to the UAE's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum and Wael Marjan, after Al-Attiyah's arch rival Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi suffered fuel feed-related problems on the opening day and retired with electrical gremlins during the second leg.

Local favourite Nizar Al-Shanfari and Oman-based co-driver George Aletraris overcame late transmission problems to cling on to the final podium place and Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri and Adel Hussein maintained their second position in the championship with a fine fourth overall. They also collected a flat tyre on the final spectator stage.

Austrian driver Andreas Wimmer fended off a determined challenge from the promising young Omani debutant Nicholi Georgiou to take fifth place, with Kuwait's Mufeed Mubarak (final spectator stage winner), Britain's David Scialom, the UAE's Yayha Al-Amri and Ron Oakeley completing the top 10.

The event was organised by Intevents, under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism, with assistance from the Oman Automobile Association, Ministry of Sports Affairs, the Royal Oman Police, Ministry of Interior, the MOD and Muscat Municipality

Fifteen of the original 21 starters began the second leg's eight timed special stages and Al-Attiyah quickly extended his overnight 90s lead over Dubai's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum by a second, despite a hair-raising moment when he slid off the track. He extended his lead to 2m 24s over the subsequent two stages and gradually pulled away to reach the finish 3m 35s ahead of the Dubai driver.

~I finished the first stage of the day just behind Nasser and then we had a flat tyre on the next one,~ groaned Sheikh Suhail. ~That was my cue to settle down and just conserve second place.~

Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri had slipped from third to fifth at the end of the opening leg with a loose turbo pipe, but he vowed the grand attack on Friday in a bid to pass team mate Khalifa Al-Attiyah and third-placed Nizar Al-Shanfari. He lost two seconds to Al-Attiyah in SS10 and climbed to within 10s of his rival after the Arqi special.

The ferocious battle continued unabated and Al-Marri pulled ahead in what turned out to be an unlucky 13th stage, when Khalifa Al-Attiyah lost around 1m 10s following an accident. The contest was settled in Al-Marri's favour at the end of the special - Al-Attiyah was unable to continue after striking a rock and losing a wheel.

The 2004 regional champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi began the day in a lowly 11th place and vowed to press on at all costs in his Pirelli-backed Subaru Impreza WRX STI. He was fastest overall in Sawaqim, taking 27s out of third-placed Al-Shanfari, and he overtook Yayha Al-Amri in the process.

Al-Attiyah was quickest in the Arqi stage, but Al-Qassimi's time of 11m 15s was sufficient for him to climb above Nicholi Georgiou, David Scialom and Mufeed Mubarak into seventh place. He deposed Andreas Wimmer in the 12th stage and had set his sights on the top three over the closing stages. The UAE driver climbed as high as fifth place when his gallant run ended with electrical problems in the 14th stage.

~I knew that I would have to push flat out to stand a chance of making the podium,~ said an adrenaline-pumped Al-Qassimi. ~I calculated that I would need to make around six minutes, nearly two seconds per kilometre. It was going so well until I had the last problem. I am very disappointed.~

A mere 12 cars from the original 21 starters completed the 257.80 km of competitive action: the Oman's Hamood Salim Al-Tauqi and Khalid Saleh Al-Minji rounded off the finishers in 11th and 12th overall.

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

The series continues with the Jordan Rally on May 24th-27th. This event will be based at the Dead Sea and is being observed as an official FIA World Rally Championship candidate event for a second

Positions after SS17 - provisional results @ 17.40 hrs:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 30m 14s
2. Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 33m 49s
3. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM)/George Alcetrias (CY) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 39m 19s
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9 2h 40m 08s
5. Andreas Wimmer (AUT)/Michael Kolbach (D) Subaru Impreza 2h 43m 51s
6. Nicholi Georgiou (OM)/Njeim Nabil (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2h 44m 29s
7. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT)/Saad Al-Melaifi (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2h 46m 08s
8. David Scialom (GB)/Andy Tatham (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 5 2h 46m 24s
9. Yayha Al-Amri (UAE)/Craig Parry (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 50m 24s
10. Ron Oakeley (UAE)/Alistair Cavenagh (EAK) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 53m 49s, etc

FIA Middle East Drivers' Championship
positions after round 3 of 8 (unofficial):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 30 pts
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 17 pts
3. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE) 16 pts
4. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 11 pts
5. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 10 pts
6. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA) 6 pts
6. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA) 6 pts
6. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM) 6 pts
9. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT) 5 pts
10. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 3 pts
10. Yayha Al-Amri (UAE) 3 pts
12. Hassan Al-Sadadi (BAH) 1 pt

FIA Middle East Co-Drivers' Championship
positions after round 3 of 8 (unofficial):
1. Chris Patterson (GB) 30 pts
2. Adel Hussein (QA) 18 pts
3. Wael Marjan (UAE) 16 pts
4. Nick Beech (GB) 11 pts
5. Steve Lancaster (GB) 10 pts
6. Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) 6 pts
6. Killian Duffy (IRL) 6 pts
6. Saad Al-Melaifi (KWT) 6 pts
9. Craig Parry (GB) 4 pts
10. Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) 3 pts
11. Hamoud Al-Jabry (OM) 1 pt

Manufacturers
1. Subaru 30 pts
2. Mitsubishi 24 pts

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: 07/04/2006

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