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Bakhashab heads international field into Jordan Rally

Jordan International Rally - PR7
2003 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3 of 6

For immediate release
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2003

BAKHASHAB HEADS INTERNATIONAL
FIELD INTO THREE-DAY JORDAN RALLY

Al-Qassimi aims to extend series lead; heat set to take its toll

AMMAN (Jordan): Former Middle East rally champion Abdullah Bakhashab, driving his Marlboro Team Peugeot 206 WRC, heads a 48-car field into the start of the Jordan International Rally, round three of this year's FIA Middle East rally championship, tomorrow evening (Thursday).

Saudi Arabia's Bakhashab and Ulster co-driver Bobby Willis have yet to open their points-scoring account this season, but have enjoyed a thorough preparation for this three-day, 20 special stage event, which marks the mid-way point in this year's regional series and uses stages around the Dead Sea, Mount Nebo and in the deserts south of Amman.

~It's really a must finish rally for me,~ said Bakhashab. ~I am determined to win the title this year, but I badly need to take a top result. It is likely to be very hot in the stages. Maybe the hottest Jordan Rally for many years. I won here for the first time in 1995 in a Ford Escort RS Cosworth and have finished second on three occasions since then.~

Standing in Bakhashab's way on this Marlboro-supported event are a host of potential Jordan Rally winners, including the Qatari driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah in a new Subaru Impreza WRC. Nasser - the winner of this year's Qatar Rally - took part in the Jordan Rally for the first time back in 1989 and won five successive Qatar national titles in the nineties. He has also represented Qatar at skeet shooting in both the Olympics and Asian Games and is co-driven by Yorkshireman Steve Lancaster.

Cypriot Andreas Tasouloftas has competed in the Hashemite Kingdom on several occasions in recent years and reckons that this could be his best ever chance of winning the regional title. He plans to tackle the remaining rounds of the series and is placing extra emphasis on a podium finish this week. Andreas finished third in Jordan in 1996 and 1999 and as runner-up behind Mohammed Ben Sulayem in 1998.

A Jordanian driver has never won in the 21-year history of this event, but Marouf Abu Samra starts at three in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 and is determined to rewrite the history books. The current Jordan National Championship leader finished third overall back in 1995 and third in the Group N category two years ago.

Fellow countryman Faris Bustami is a former national champion and is also hoping that local knowledge and meticulous preparations assist his winning aspirations. He also wheels out a Mitsubishi.

Last year's championship runner-up Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi made the switch from a Ford Focus WRC to a Group N Mitsubishi before the Rally of Lebanon and is the new leader of the regional championship. He will be attempting to become the first driver to win a round of the series in a Group N car since Nizar Al-Shanfari's outright success in Qatar in 1999.

The Group N category for showroom specification cars currently shows a two-way tie for the lead between Al-Qassimi and Britain's Justin Dale, although commitments with Hyundai in the World Rally Championship have kept Dale away from Jordan. Sheikh Khaled Al-Qassimi will be hoping to capitalise and add to the six points he collected in Lebanon.

Hamed Al-Sowaidi returned to a Mitsubishi this season after a year of mixed fortunes in a Subaru Impreza WRC and he heads a strong challenge from the State of Qatar. Abdullah Al-Kuwari, Abdullaziz Al-Kuwari, Misfer Al-Marri and Khalifa Al-Attiyah will all be challenging for showroom honours.

Mohammed Al-Sarraf leads the Kuwaiti challenge in his Marlboro Team Mitsubishi Lancer, while Bahrain is represented by Hassan Al-Sadadi and Ibrahim Busmait. Ahmad Al-Sabban and Farouk Ghurab spearhead the Saudi Arabian assault at the Group N title and Bashar Abu Quora and Mohammed Hamsho lead the Syrian team.

Rounds of the Middle East series are also open to competitors in front-wheel drive 1600 cars and the Super 1600 Cup is currently headed by Ramez Al-Farra (Seat) and Asem Aref (Citroen). Both line-up at the rear of the field and face the likes of Jordan's Omran Sakkijha (Peugeot), Lebanon's Ziad Karanouh (Peugeot) and Qatar's Mohammed Al-Marri (Opel).

~We are delighted with the strength in depth in the entry list,~ enthused Ziad Louza, the clerk of the course. ~We are guaranteed a new overall winner for the first time in seven years and our local drivers have a very good chance of winning for the first time. It could be one of the closest Jordan rallies for many years.~

Competitive action starts at 17.00 on Thursday evening with a timed 2.27 kms Marlboro Super Special stage on the outskirts of Amman. Footage will be shown live on Jordan television.

The Jordan Rally is based at the Amman Marriott Hotel and has further support from Marlboro, Royal Jordanian airlines, Amman Marriott, Masar/Motorola, Toyota, Mobilecom, Samsung, Minolta, Batelco Jordan and Aramex.

FIA Middle East rally championship - Overall positions after round 2 of 6
1. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 11
3. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) and Roger Feghali (RL) 10
4. Abdo Feghali (RL) 8
5. Justin Dale (GB) and Rodrigue Rahi (RL) 6, etc

FIA Middle East rally championship - Group N positions after round 2 of 6
1. Justin Dale (GB) and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 10
4. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA) and Elan (RL) 8
6. Craig Johnson (GB) and Sheikh Khaled Al-Qassimi (UAE) 6
8. Abdullah Al-Rabban (QA) and Toni Abdel Hak (RL) 5, etc

FIA Super 1600 Cup
1. Ramez Al-Farra (SYR) and Asem Aref (HKJ) 10
3. Ziad Karanouh (RL) 8

Ends

For further media information: Neil Perkins, 2003 Jordan International Rally Press Officer, Rally Media Centre, Moab Hall, Royal Automobile Club of Jordan, Amman, Tel: + (962) 6 5818345, Fax: + (962) 6 5818278, GSM: + (962) 6 859218
www.racj.com
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com www.ndp-publicity.com

Date issued: 23/07/2003

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