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MERC Comfortable lead for Al Attiyah after leg one in Jordan

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

For immediate release
Friday, May 26th, 2006

QATAR’S AL-ATTIYAH CRUISES INTO
COMFORTABLE JORDAN RALLY LEAD

UAE’s Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum holds second;
Jordanian rally duo in third and fifth places

DEAD SEA (Jordan): Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson held an advantage of 2m 03.6s after the opening leg of 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 completed the leg in second position, while Jordanian drivers Amjad Farrah and Faris Bustami were third and fifth overall. Sharjah’s Abdullah Al-Qassimi held fourth place in his Subaru Impreza WRX STi.

In temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Centigrade at the lowest place on earth, teams were forced to endure the adverse elements, in addition to coping with slippery and technical special stages for this WRC candidate event, which finishes on Saturday evening.

Al-Attiyah drew first blood by beating Dubai’s Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum 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 broken gear link 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, overshoots and heat-induced fuel feed problems 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 problem with a gear linkage and we could not change gear properly. This is a very difficult rally. You need four or five days to set the car up properly for these stages. I have learned a lot. It has been very challenging.”

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 with a mysterious electrical problem and lost 27 minutes.
Team manager Ron Cremen was convinced that it was the same electrical or fuel pressure problem that had dogged the 2004 regional champion in Oman last month. “This is not my season,” groaned Al-Qassimi. “When will I be able to enjoy a good clear run?”

Al-Maktoum was promoted to second overall, albeit 1m 33.5s behind Al-Attiyah, and managed to pull clear of third-placed Farrah, while Faris Bustami and Abdullah Al-Qassimi were locked 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.

The remaining four stages of the day were two runs through the Dead Sea and Chery Mahes specials. Khalid Al-Qassimi was lying in 20th and last place, 29m 46s behind the leading Qatari, and ironically set the fastest times in SS7, SS8 and SS9, as he began a climb up the leaderboard to 14th. Al-Attiyah eased his pace to consolidate his advantage over the closing stages and Al-Maktoum, Farrah and Abdullah Al-Qassimi maintained second, third and fourth overall.

Jordan’s Bashar Bustami overtook Faris Bustami, who was struggling with overheating problems and seconds separated them before the final stage, with Faris snatching fifth overall on the return to the Dead Sea when Bashar stopped with battery problems and slipped to 15th. Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri, Lebanon’s Michel Saleh, Saudi Arabia’s Ahmed Al-Sabban, Britain’s David Scialom and Qatar’s Khalifa Al-Attiyah completed the top 10.

Jordan’s Ahmad Mihyar succumbed to fuel pump problems early on, 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. Asem Aref succumbed to fuel pump maladies and Mazan Tantash crashed his Mitsubishi in the fourth stage. Kuwait’s Mufeed Mubarak rolled and lost his place inside the top 10 on the final stage.

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 SS10 of 18 – end of leg one:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 50m 06.5s
2. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 52m 10.1s
3. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 1h 56m 24.1s
4. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 57m 18.6s
5. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Imad Jumaa (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 1h 58m 46.9s
6. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 1h 59m 15.5s
7. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ziad Chehab (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 2h 00m 17.8s
8. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Hamoud Al-Jabry (OM) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 05m 29.4s
9. David Scialom (GB)/Thomas Mathias (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V 2h 05m 44.2s
10. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA)Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 09m 30.2s

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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