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MERC Top UAE drivers arrive in Amman to prepare for Jordan Rally 2006

Jordan Rally 2006
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 4 of 8

For immediate release
Monday, May 22nd, 2006

UAE’S TOP DRIVERS ARRIVE IN AMMAN
TO PREPARE FOR JORDAN RALLY 2006

Dead Sea challenge for UAE’s Khalid Al-Qassimi;
Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa determined to close the gap

DEAD SEA (Jordan): Three of the Middle East’s top rally drivers have arrived in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to make their final preparations for the Jordan Rally 2006, round four of this year’s FIA Middle East Rally Championship and an official candidate event for the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), which starts on Thursday afternoon at the Citadel in Amman.

The 2004 FIA Middle East Rally Champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi will be joined on the entry list by Dubai’s Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum and Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi. All three drivers are relishing the prospect of challenging for the outright victory on what promises to be the most exciting Jordan Rally in recent years.

Their goal over the next two days will be to prepare fully for 18 timed special stages, which will take place across purpose-prepared terrain in the area around the Dead Sea and Rumman on Friday and Saturday. Over the course of two days they will face fierce competition from a strong Jordanian contingent and the defending regional champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah.

But Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi was upbeat about his chances: “I always enjoy this event and this year promises to be even better for me,” said Al-Qassimi, speaking at the Movenpick Dead Sea Resort and Spa before beginning his reconnaissance of the route. “Just from what I have seen over the last 24 hours I can see the huge efforts that the organisers have put into this year’s rally. Everything appears to be superbly organised and I am sure that Jordan deserves its chance in the FIA World Rally Championship.

“For me, I am delighted that officials have decided not to use the special stages in the deserts to the south of Amman this time. I prefer tight, twisty special stages more than fast, open tracks. So the new route should suit my driving style much better. It will not be easy to win the rally, but I have a great chance and will try my hardest.”

Sheikh Khalid used the Umm Al-Quwain Rally, a round of the UAE National Championship, to gain some extra practice last weekend and finished third overall in his practice car behind brother Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and another of this weekend’s arch rivals, Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum.

Suhail currently lies third in the FIA Middle East Drivers’ Championship, following his second overall in Rally Oman last month, and needs to beat Al-Attiyah this weekend to further his quest for a first ever regional title.

“We are getting quicker all the time, but Nasser is a very talented driver and I will need to be on top of my form to beat him here,” said Sheikh Suhail. “I was second last weekend and that dusted off the cob webs in the UAE, so now we can knuckle down to this one and try and get the win we need to put us back into contention for the championship.”

Khalid Al-Qassimi, meanwhile, lies fourth in the Drivers’ Championship on 11 points in his Ron Cremen-prepared Subaru Impreza WRX STi and knows full well that a podium finish is an absolute necessity if he is to keep his title challenge on track. He set several competitive stage times in Oman during a fight-back from 11th place, but electrical problems forced him out of fifth overall near the finish and he now trails Al-Attiyah by an alarming 19 points.

“We had a problem with the fuel system on the last event in Oman and haven’t really got to the bottom of the fault as yet,” said Cremen. “We tested the fuel system, but we arrive in Jordan under a cloud with the problem still hanging over us. The plan was to carry out a small test on Tuesday, strip out the fuel tanks and see if we could get to the bottom of the electrical problem. It is a little concerning, but hopefully we will be fighting fit for Thursday afternoon.”

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi won the Umm Al-Quwain Rally in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, but will tackle the Jordan Rally in a Subaru Impreza WRX STi with British co-driver Steve Lancaster. Currently in a three-way tie for the lead in the UAE national series with his two closest rivals - prior to the final round in Ajman in November - Sheikh Abdullah is relishing the prospect of competing for a podium finish in Jordan. He failed to finish the last round in Oman after a disappointing engine failure, but enjoys competing in the Dead Sea region of the Hashemite Kingdom and could well spring a surprise over the coming days.

The three-day Jordan Rally has received valuable sponsorship from Saraya Jordan and Chery Automobile and further support from Mecca Mail, Convention Centre, the Movenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea, Fastlink, Sawt El Ghad, Red Bull and Royal Jordanian. Jordan Motorsport has also received the full backing of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, the Tourism Board and Mawared.

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2006 Jordan Rally Press Officer, Media Centre, King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre, Dead Sea, Jordan, Tel: + (962) 7 95047329, Fax: + (962) 5 3560836, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153 E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

www.jordanrally.com




Date issued: 22/05/2006

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