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MERC Al Qassimi determined to end streak of bad luck in Lebanon

2006 Rally of Lebanon
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 5 of 8

For immediate release
Monday, June 26th, 2006

UAE’S KHALID AL-QASSIMI DETERMINED
TO END RUN OF CRUEL LUCK IN LEBANON

Al-Qassimi’s team get to the bottom of cruel fuel feed problem;
Lebanese encounter offers fresh hope for former champion

DUBAI (UAE): The 2004 FIA Middle East rally champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi is currently in the middle of a run of cruel luck, which has seen him plummet to fifth overall in the FIA Drivers’ Championship standings in this year’s eight-round regional rally series.

The UAE driver is one of the most talented individuals in the region, but niggling mechanical problems and a run of miserable fortune mean that he will arrive in Lebanon this week facing the prospect of having to beat several Lebanese specialists on their home tarmac to boost his chances of taking a second regional title.

Al-Qassimi and British co-driver Nicky Beech were the second quickest pair on the special stages in the recent Rally Jordan when their car was running reliably, but a fuel feed problem cost them any chance of catching the eventual winner Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, the runaway leader of the series this year.

But Al-Qassimi’s team of technicians in the UAE have spent several hours trying to get to the bottom of the fuel starvation fault which has plagued his Prodrive-built Subaru Impreza WRX STi on recent rallies in Oman and Jordan. Sheikh Khalid is now confident that he will be fully prepared for the start of the Rally of Lebanon in downtown Beirut on Friday evening (June 30th).

With vital support from the Pirelli tyre company and the Finance House, Al-Qassimi is relishing the prospect of unleashing his potential on the Lebanese round of the regional series, the only asphalt surface in the championship, where Pirelli tyres have often given drivers a distinct advantage in the past over the slippery asphalt surfaces, which are a feature of the winding stages in the hills around Blat, Zandouka and Batroun to the north and east of the city.

“After the disappointment we faced in Oman back in April we thought we were on top of the problem with the fuel feed in Jordan, because we won a local rally in the UAE as a test for Jordan,” said Al-Qassimi. “But we carried out a test with the car just before we left for Jordan and the problem returned. Our team changed everything we thought could be connected to the fault. We changed the fuel tank pick-up, lines, pumps, filters and even some of the vital electrics.

“But the problem returned again in Jordan and we faced a carbon copy of the Oman disappointments from the fifth stage onwards. The only factor common to both events was the outside temperature of around 40 degrees Centigrade and the only thing different between our car and the other Subarus running the same fuel system was the actual fuel we were using. As a last resort we changed the fuel at the last service on the first day and the car ran without any problems.

“On reflection it appears that our fuel was stored in sealed drums, but we had purchased it in 2005. It had been stored throughout a Middle Eastern summer in a place with no air conditioning and there is a distinct possibility that the contents of the drum reached over 60 degrees and the fuel quality began to break down, which ultimately caused our fuel starvation problem. It is something we have now learned from, so we are keeping out fingers crossed that nothing like that happens again!”

The Rally of Lebanon will take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend, with teams tackling some of the most specialist special stages in the entire Middle East.

Ends

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Date issued: 26/06/2006

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