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MERC Rally of Lebanon gets underway on Friday evening in Beirut

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

For immediate release
Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

RALLY OF LEBANON GETS UNDERWAY IN
DOWNTOWN BEIRUT ON FRIDAY EVENING

Khalid Al-Qassimi leads strong Gulf rally contingent
New Beirut spectator stage to kick-start weekend action

JOUNIEH (Lebanon): A strong line-up of the Middle East’s finest rally drivers will lock horns over the three days of this weekend’s Rally of Lebanon, round five of the 2006 FIA Middle East Rally Championship. Leading the Gulf contingent on the Jounieh-based event will be the 2004 regional champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and his British co-driver Nicky Beech at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRX STi, run by Ron Cremen with support from Pirelli and the Finance House.

Al-Qassimi faces fierce competition from Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah - the defending champion and leader of this year’s series - and the Lebanese Feghali brothers, Roger and Abdo, two of the leading tarmac rally drivers in the Middle East in their respective Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX and new Subaru Impreza.

The organising ATCL have laid on a challenging two days of timed tarmac special stages in the mountains to the north and east of Beirut, but the competitive action will get underway with a timed spectator stage at Ashrafiya in Beirut, on Friday evening. The floodlit spectacular will see cars line-up alongside each other in pairs to entertain the Beirut crowds.

“Spectator stages are great for sponsors and exciting for spectators, but have little significance to the result of an event,” admitted Khalid Al-Qassimi. “It is important that you make no mistakes on these short stages. We have had some problems this season and my priority in Lebanon is to ensure that we give our best and try and take a good podium finish.”

The Rally of Lebanon was cancelled last season, but the ever-popular round of the regional series is one of the most specialised events in the world and detailed preparations for the twisty tarmac roads are essential.

While Al-Qassimi and Al-Attiyah will line-up as the favourites to take on the local tarmac specialists, Dubai’s Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum – lying second overall in the championship - and fourth-placed Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi will be hopeful of a good result. Teams have been permitted to carry out low speed practice on the actual rally roads over the last two days in the baking heat of a Lebanese summer.

Also featuring on the 31-car entry list of drivers from eight nations are Oman’s Nizar Al-Shanfari, Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh, Bahrain’s Hassan Al-Sadadi, Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thafiri, Jordan’s Amjad Farrah and Ma’rouf Abu Samra and the Doha-based duo of Misfer Al-Marri and Khalifa Al-Attiyah. Further competition from Lebanese drivers is expected from Doumit Bou Doumit, Fadi Hayek and Eli Germany at the wheel of a trio of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions.

After Friday evening’s ceremonial start and 1.96km spectator stage at 21.30 hrs in downtown Beirut, the traditional mountainous special stages get underway on Saturday morning. There will be eight timed speed tests on Saturday, totalling 131.50km, in the Batroun, Ail Aaya, Yachouch and Blat areas, following by eight further specials on Sunday near the Kefraya vineyards, Zandouka and Bteghrine.

The official podium finish takes place at the ATCL, adjacent to the sea in Jounieh, at 6pm on Sunday evening. In a total route of 987.56km, 275.50km will be competitive.

Rally of Lebanon - leading 10 starters
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
2. Roger Feghali (RL)/Nabil Njeim (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX
3. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Nicky Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
4. Abdo Feghali (RL)/Joseph Matar (RL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
5. Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
6. Doumit Bou Doumit (RL)/Louai Sakr (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII
7. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Nicola Arena (I) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX
8. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ziad Chehab (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX
9. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Gaby Khoury (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
10.Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QA) Subaru Impreza WRX STi

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

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Date issued: 28/06/2006

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