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MERC Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah leads Jordan Rally after six special stages

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

For immediate release
Friday, May 26th, 2006

QATAR’S AL-ATTIYAH TAKES
EARLY LEAD IN JORDAN RALLY

Jordan’s Farrah and Bustami in third and fifth;
UAE’s Khalid Al-Qassimi stopped in sixth stage

DEAD SEA (Jordan): Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and co-driver Chris Patterson held an advantage of 1m 33.5s after six of the opening leg’s 10 timed special stages in the Jordan Rally, round four of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, being held under the patronage of HRH Prince Feisal Al-Hussein, Chairman of Jordan Motorsport, near the Dead Sea, today (Friday).

Dubai’s Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum held second position and the Jordanian drivers Amjad Farrah and Faris Bustami were third and fifth overall. With temperatures reaching 40 degrees Centigrade at the lowest place on earth, teams were forced to battle against the adverse elements, in addition to new-look, slippery and technical special stages for this WRC candidate event, which finishes on Saturday evening.

Al-Attiyah drew first blood by beating Suhail Bin Khalifa by 21.6s and Sheikh Khaled Al-Qassimi by 24s in the opening Turki stage. It set the tone for the morning, with Al-Qassimi and Al-Maktoum locked in a battle for second place, ahead of Jordan’s Amjad Farrah, Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and Jordan’s Faris Bustami.

A gear link failure prevented Al-Attiyah from pulling any further ahead over the morning’s first three stages, as all the drivers erred on the side of caution on the slippery surfaces, where spins and overshoots were commonplace. “I started very well and set a good time on the first stage,” said Al-Attiyah. “I concentrated hard. But then we had a problem with the gearbox. There was a gear linkage problem and we could not change gear properly.”

Jordan’s Ahmad Mihyar succumbed to fuel pump problems after the first stage, Ammar Hijazi rolled his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX in SS3 and Jordan’s Nancy Al-Majali, Switzerland’s Edith Weiss, Qatar’s Mohammed Al-Mannai and Kuwait’s Ahmad Al-Kharass also retired.

Al-Attiyah began the second loop of three special stages with a 29s lead over Al-Qassimi, with Al-Maktoum 8.9s further adrift. Al-Maktoum, Farrah, Abdullah Al-Qassimi and Bustami completed the top six.

In the repeat run through the 14.20 kms Turki stage, a flying Al-Attiyah was able to benefit from a repaired Subaru and he extended his lead over Al-Qassimi to 49.8s, beating his first stage time by 15s into the bargain. Al-Qassimi complained that he couldn’t find the best set-up for the differentials on the changeable stage surfaces, but he maintained a solid second place.

Repeat runs through the Mount Nebo and Saraya Mai’n specials brought no respite for the chasing pack and Al-Attiyah extended his advantage over Al-Qassimi to 1m 05s after SS5. But Al-Qassimi stopped in the sixth stage a mere two kilometres from the end of the test with unknown electrical problems. Team manager Ron Cremen was convinced it was the same electrical or fuel pressure problem that had dogged the 2004 regional champion in Oman last month. He lost over 27 minutes and slipped to 20th place.

Al-Maktoum was promoted to second overall, albeit 1m 33.5s behind Al-Attiyah, and managed to pull clear of third-placed Farrah, while Bustami and Abdullah Al-Qassimi were caught in a gripping tussle for fifth overall. They were tied on the same second after SS5 and Al-Qassimi eventually headed into service with a tiny 8.6s advantage.

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the second and final day of the Jordan Rally, with eight special stages in a total route of 441.63 kms. Cars leave the restart area at 06.30 hrs and tackle the opening Kafrein special at 07.26 hrs. After two subsequent tests at Wadi Shueib (07.56 hrs) and Rumman (08.54 hrs), teams return to the service park at the Dead Sea at 10.24 hrs.

The three specials are repeated at 11.47 hrs, 12.17 hrs and 13.15 hrs before a second regrouping and holding control. The third and final section of leg two features the Shuna special at 16.13 hrs and a second Dead Sea stage at 16.50 hrs. Following a final service point at the Dead Sea, the official podium finish will take place at 18.00 hrs near the King Hussein Convention Centre on the banks of the Dead Sea.

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.

Positions after SS6 of 18 (top 5):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 01m 01.6s
2. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 01m 35.1s
3. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 1h 03m 06.8s
4. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 04m 46.9s
5. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Imad Jumaa (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 1h 04m 55.6s, etc

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: 26/05/2006

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