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MERC Al Attiyah leads top class field into Jordan Rally

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

For immediate release
Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

DEFENDING CHAMPION AL-ATTIYAH SET TO
LEAD TOP CLASS FIELD INTO JORDAN RALLY

Jordan’s Farrah and Bustami eye podium finishes;
Crucial event for title hopes of Al-Qassimi and Al-Maktoum

DEAD SEA (Jordan): Qatar’s defending FIA Middle East rally champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson will lead an international field from nine countries into the start of the Jordan Rally 2006 at the Citadel in Amman on Thursday afternoon. The event is being held under the patronage of HRH Prince Feisal Al-Hussein, Chairman of Jordan Motorsport.

Ahead of teams from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Ireland and Lebanon lie 18 timed special stages in the Dead Sea and Rumman areas of Jordan to the west of Amman. Several of these stages are completely new and others have been rebuilt, regraded and finely-honed to the exacting requirements of the FIA World Rally Championship, of which Jordan Rally 2006 is a deserved candidate round.

Al-Attiyah has won the opening three rounds of this year’s regional series, amassing three maximum 10-point scores for his wins in Al-Ain, Qatar and Oman. His nearest rivals are Qatar team mate Misfer Al-Marri on 17 points and Dubai’s Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum on 16 points. Both drivers are relishing the prospect of closing the gap on the championship leader, but it will not be easy: Al-Attiyah is the form driver in the region and won the PWRC section of the recent WRC round in Argentina.

“The stages are very smooth, quite fast and potentially very difficult,” said Al-Marri. “They can be slippery and there is no margin for error. If you make a mistake here, then you could be in big trouble.”

Also hoping to improve on a disappointing start to his season is the 2004 regional champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi in his Subaru Impreza WRX STi. The UAE driver lost out in a thrilling opening round in Al-Ain to a late Al-Attiyah charge to victory and mechanical problems blighted his progress in Qatar and Oman, although he had blitzed his way from 11th to fifth overall in Oman before electrical problems intervened.

Former Group N regional champion Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi starts in fifth place in the regional series on 10 points and the Sharjah driver will be hoping to build upon his recent win in the Umm Al-Quwain Rally. Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh is also due a dose of good fortune after recent disappointments and he has the pace and determination to feature on the leaderboard.

“Suhail and I have a new sponsor for our two-car team and we need to get a good result for them,” said Saleh. “I am very impressed by the stages. They could be dangerous if you push too hard and need to be treated with respect. But, when you consider that the worst one of them all is the Dead Sea stage and that was the best stage last year, that proves what a huge improvement the organisers have made.”

Vociferous local support will be centred around the 2004 Jordan Rally winner Amjad Farrah and defending national champion Faris Bustami. Both have announced new sponsorship and improved cars for their home event and both have the dream of winning what is becoming the most important rally in the history of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

“These new stages are very impressive,” admitted Bustami. “For sure, the winner of the rally will not be the driver with the fastest car, but the most talented driver.”

“No event in the Middle East region has ever been a part of the FIA World Rally Championship, so we know that the stakes are huge and the prize is within reach,” said Ziad Louza, Clerk of the Course of this year’s event. “We have received very favourable feedback so far and our entire team is relishing the prospect of a busy and very exciting few days. We started out on this long road back in 1982 when the event was rated nationally by the FIA and then we joined the regional championship one year later.”

While the leading six drivers battle for championship points and jostle for a potential position on the podium, Jordan’s Bashar Bustami has one goal and that is to finish inside the top five. The former championship regular is not registered for points, but he and Welsh co-driver Craig Parry are sure to be in contention in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII.

The Hashemite Kingdom is strongly-represented on the entry list: Asem Aref and Burhan Abu Quora wheel out their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII, Ammar Hijazi, Mazan Tantash, sprint entrant Ala Khalifeh and Ahmad Mihyar wheel out a quartet of other Mitsubishis, Abed Al-Adham is entered in a Subaru Impreza WRX STi, while Fares Hizaji, Mohammed Juma. Nancy Al-Majali and Abir Batikhi complete the local line-up.

The State of Kuwait will be represented by four-wheel drive front-runners Meshar Al-Thafiri, Mufeed Mubarak and Yousuf Al-Dhefiri, with Meshal Al-Nejadi and Ahmed Al-Raiess driving a pair of nimble Citroën Saxos in the 1600 category. Ahmed Al-Sabban flies the Saudi Arabian flag on this occasion, while Britain’s David Scialom, Switzerland’s Edith Weiss and Qatar’s Mohammed Al-Mannai complete the international line-up.

Tomorrow (Thursday) the timetable unfolds at 14.30 hrs with a parade of His late Majesty King Hussein’s collection of priceless automobiles. Around 10 of his museum pieces will be driven around a set route with FIA delegates seated inside. At 16.00 hrs the Jordan Armed Forces Band will lead His Majesty’s cars into the Citadel and this will be a cue for the Amman Municipality Troupe for Folkloric Arts to perform several acts.

At 16.30 hrs on Thursday afternoon the famous Jordanian folk Omar Abdulat will sing a selection of famous songs and there will be an aerobatic display by the Flying Bulls before the ceremonial start at 17.00 hrs.

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.

Leading starters:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Nicky Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
3. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
4. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX
5. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Imad Jumaa (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII
7. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
8. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT)/Faris Al-Thafiri (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII
9. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
10. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ziad Chehab (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII
11. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX

FIA Middle East Drivers' Championship
positions after round 3 of 8
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
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

1600
1. Mohammed Juma (HKJ) 10 pts

Rally start programme:
Thursday, May 25th
14.30 hrs: Jordan Rally parade of His Majesty’s cars
15.15 hrs: Bedouin police escort for His Majesty’s cars from Amphitheatre to the Citadel
16.00 hrs: Jordan Armed Forces band to lead His Majesty’s cars
16.15 hrs: Amman Municipality Troupe for Folkloric Arts
16.30 hrs: Omar Abdulsat singing performance
16.50 hrs: Display by the Flying Bulls
17.00 hrs: Ceremonial start

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: 24/05/2006

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