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Transmission failure wrecks the Bakhashab dream in Jordan

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

For immediate release
Friday, July 25th, 2003

QATAR'S AL-ATTIYAH HOLDS
MASSIVE LEAD IN JORDAN RALLY

Bakhashab's cruel luck continues; Khaled Al-Qassimi out; Abu Samra rolls in a wadi

AMMAN (Jordan): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah extended his lead in the 21st Jordan International Rally, the third round of the 2003 FIA Middle East rally championship, after eight drama-filled special stages today (Friday).

The Qatari and his British co-driver Steve Lancaster held a 63s advantage over Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Bakhashab and Ulster co-driver Bobby Willis after SS8, but Bakhashab's cruel run of luck continued when he stopped in the ninth and final stage of the day with transmission problems.

~I had plenty in reserve,~ said Al-Attiyah, the winner of the Qatar Rally. ~I took a little time, then I give a little back. If Abdullah pushed, I pushed as well. The car was perfect.~

Thirty-seven homologated cars and four Saudi-built Toyota Rav4s competing in a different section at the rear of the field began this morning's stages in the punishing deserts to the south of Amman and the rate of attrition was high.

Bakhashab set the fastest time through the opening Khan Zbeib stage, the Marlboro Team driver beating Abu Samra by 13.2 seconds at an average speed of 123 km/h. Al-Attiyah finished third and hung on to second overall.

Al-Attiyah regained the overall lead in SS3, when he and Abu Samra beat Bakhashab by 17s. The trio became embroiled in a furious tussle throughout the morning in the choking dust and across the boulder-strewn terrain, before Abu Samra dropped three minutes with broken suspension and then rolled out of the rally eight kms from the end of SS7. Cypriot Andreas Tsouloftas duly moved up to third place and then inherited second position.

~It was so important for me to finish this rally and that was on my mind all the time,~ said a devastated Bakhashab. ~The car was working well and I knew that the Peugeot would be better suited to the stages near the Dead Sea on Saturday. Every time I saw a place which could be tricky, I went slowly. I just wanted to finish.~

Cypriot Charis Komodromos was the event's first retirement. After initially being refused a start by event officials because his co-driver was not wearing a legal race suit, Komodromos succumbed to an electrical problem in the opening stage.

Jordan's Nasser Khanfar retired his Mitsubishi with engine problems in SS2, Michel Saleh was sidelined with a broken driveshaft and Group N pace setter Sheikh Khaled Al-Qassimi wrecked his Mitsubishi's oil cooler on a boulder and was forced out.

~I was going so well,~ said Sheikh Khaled. ~I had a good lead in Group N and was pushing very hard. Then I hit a rock and it smashed the bottom of the engine and wrecked the oil cooler. That's it. I am out. Very disappointed.~

Qatar's Hamed Al-Sowaidi held the Group N advantage in his Mitsubishi over the outright championship leader Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi until SS8. Sowaidi duly stopped for over nine minutes and Al-Qassimi finished the day in third overall and first in the showroom section.

Tomorrow's (Saturday) action consists of 11 special stages in the Dead Sea, Mount Nebo and Rumman areas to the west of Amman. Featuring the lowest special stage on the planet, some of the trickiest gravel descents in the world and searing summer temperatures, the final leg of the Jordan Rally promises to be a sting in the tail for the already depleted field, prior to the official finish in Amman.

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.

Poisitions after SS9 - end of day 2 (top 6 only):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRC 1h 32m 40.9s
2 Andreas Tsouloftas (CY)/Savvas Laos (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 1h 39m 46.5s
3. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 1h 41m 42.9s
4. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Ata Al Hmoud (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 4 1h 45m 33.4s
5. Hamed Al-Sowaidi (QA)/Michael Morrissey (IRL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 1h 49m 46.3s
6. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussain (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 1h 50m 50.0s

Ends

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

Date issued: 25/07/2003

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