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MERC Nasser Al Attiyah seals emphatic win in Jordan Rally

Jordan Rally 2006
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 4 of 8
FIA World Rally Championship, official candidate event

For immediate release
Saturday, May 27th, 2006

QATAR’S AL-ATTIYAH EXTENDS CHAMPIONSHIP
LEAD WITH STUNNING VICTORY IN JORDAN RALLY

UAE’s Suhail bin Khalifa and Jordan’s Farrah complete podium;
HRH Prince Feisal Al-Hussein pledges determined WRC push

DEAD SEA (Jordan): Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson extended their overall advantage in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship to 16 points, after taking a start to finish victory in the Jordan Rally, an official WRC candidate event held under the patronage of HRH Prince Feisal Al-Hussein, Chairman of Jordan Motorsport.

Al-Attiyah was fastest on 13 of the 17 timed special stages on the Dead Sea-based event and eventually finished 4m 13.8s ahead of second-placed Dubai driver Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum and co-driver Wael Marjan, who duly moved up to second place in the regional series.

“This was a very difficult and specialised event and I am so happy to win again,” said Al-Attiyah. “We were trying a different suspension set-up today. I had more confidence with it and the car was more stable. But we took no risks. The event has made massive progress in the last 12 months and I am convinced that it could easily become a round of the WRC.”

Jordanian Amjad Farrah and former championship-winning co-driver Khaled Zakaria completed the podium positions with third overall and the honour of being the highest-placed Jordanian crew on what has been labelled as the most important event in the 23-year history of the FIA Middle East Championship.

Farrah – the winner of the Jordan Rally in 2004 - was understandably jubilant to reach the podium after a season of mixed fortunes. “I am delighted with this result and feel confident now for the rest of the season with the improvements we have made,” said Farrah. “I knew that I was too far behind the leading two this morning, but we had a scare at the end of the first Rumman stage. The brakes were overheating and we got to the end of the stage and both tyres exploded. Luckily we carry two spares!”

Sharjah’s Abdullah Al-Qassimi and British co-driver Steve Lancaster finished fourth overall in their new Subaru Impreza, despite overheating brakes. Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri was fifth and Lebanon’s Michel Saleh completed the top six.

“I am extremely proud of the efforts of the entire organising team this week towards our goal of bringing the WRC to Jordan,” said HRH Prince Feisal Al-Hussain, Chairman of Jordan Motorsport. “One year ago we set out our goals and we have fulfilled many of our objectives and put into place many of the requirements of our friends at the FIA. But we know there is work still to be done and we will do whatever it takes to bring the FIA World Rally Championship to Jordan. That ongoing work starts tomorrow.”

Unseasonably hot weather, which had been caused by hot desert winds from Saudi Arabia, abated on the second leg and teams were able to benefit from slightly cooler temperatures for the remaining seven special stages.

Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi had begun his climb back from 20th position and began the day in 15th place, although it was business as usual at the head of the field through the opening 16.76 kms of Kafrein, with Al-Attiyah controlling the pace. Al-Qassimi had been reseeded at two and was fastest in SS12, but the overnight top four held station on the opening three stages.

Over the sinuous roads at Rumman, Al-Attiyah extended his overall advantage over Al-Maktoum to 3m 16.8s. The remainder of the leaders were spread out, although David Scialom and Ahmed Al-Sabban were involved in a close fight for eighth overall.

Jordan’s Faris Bustami began the day in fifth place, but lost five minutes in the Rumman stage and slipped to seventh behind Al-Marri and Saleh. “I was doing fine after the first couple of stages this morning, trying to catch Abdullah and pull away from Misfer,” moaned Bustami. “I know the Rumman stage very well and decided to push. But I made a silly mistake on a medium left. I tried to cut, but we hit a rock on the inside and it flipped the car on to its right-side. We lost about a minute on the stage after that, but around four more trying to get the car back on to its wheels, because there were no spectators around to help.”

Al-Attiyah extended his lead on the repeat loop of three stages. His advantage was 3m 29s after Kafrein, 3m 36s after Wadi Shueib and 3m 56s after the final Rumman stage. The organisers cancelled the final Dead Sea special and the 15.27 kms of Shuna were all that stood between Al-Attiyah and a fourth successive win of the year. He duly set the fastest time on the final stage to close out an emphatic win.

Twenty-two of the original 28 cars started the second leg, with 12 benefiting from the SupeRally ruling. There were 19 finishers – Jordan’s Ala’ Khalifeh was declared OTL with a fistful of time penalties and suspension and axle breakages put Abed Al-Adham and Mohammed Jume out of the rally.

Jordan’s Bashar Bustami was not able to restart this morning. “We were running well,” said Bustami. “Then I spun at a tight part of the 10th stage and could not restart the engine until we were pushed. We made it to the stage finish, but it was too late.”

The three-day Jordan Rally 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 also received the full backing of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, the Tourism Board and Mawared.

While competitors in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship now switch their attention to the fifth round of the series in Lebanon at the end of June, Jordan Motorsport officials will be working behind the scenes to bolster their bid for inclusion in the WRC. A decision is expected at the FIA World Council meeting in early July.

Positions after final stage (provisional):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 3h 12m 55.8s
2. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 3h 17m 09.5s
3. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 3h 23m 28.7s
4. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 3h 24m 30.5s
5. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 3h 27m 35.8s
6. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ziad Chehab (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 3h 30m 57.8s
7. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Imad Jumaa (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 3h 31m 56.6s
8. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Hamoud Al-Jabry (OM) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 3h 37m 59.2s
9. David Scialom (GB)/Thomas Mathias (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V 3h 38m 36.2s

FIA Middle East Drivers' Championship
positions after round 4 of 8 (unofficial)
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 40 pts
2. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE) 24 pts
3. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 21 pts
4. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 15 pts
5. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 11 pts
6. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 9 pts
7. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA) 7 pts
8. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA) 6 pts
8. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM) 6 pts
10. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT) 5 pts
11. Yayha Al-Amri (UAE) 3 pts
11. Michel Saleh (RL) 3 pts
13. Faris Bustami (HKJ) 2 pts
14. Hassan Al-Sadadi (BAH) 1 pt

FIA Middle East Co-Drivers' Championship
positions after round 4 of 8 (unofficial)
1. Chris Patterson (GB) 40 pts
2. Wael Marjan (UAE) 24 pts
3. Adel Hussein (QA) 22 pts
4. Steve Lancaster (GB) 15 pts
5. Nick Beech (GB) 11 pts
6. Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) 9 pts
7. Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) 6 pts
7. Killian Duffy (IRL) 6 pts
7. Saad Al-Melaifi (KWT) 6 pts
10. Craig Parry (GB) 4 pts
11. Ziad Chehab (RL) 3 pts
12. Hamoud Al-Jabry (OM) 2 pts
12. Imad Juma (HKJ) 2 pts

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: 27/05/2006

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