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MERC Roger Feghali takes early lead in Rally of Lebanon

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

For immediate release
Saturday, July 1st, 2006

ROGER FEGHALI TAKES EARLY LEAD IN
OPENING LEG OF RALLY OF LEBANON

UAE’s Khalid Al-Qassimi second of MERC drivers;
Al-Qassimi beats local hot shot in spectator stage

JOUNIEH (Lebanon): Lebanon’s Roger Feghali and co-driver Nabil Njeim were the early leaders of this weekend’s Rally of Lebanon after five special stages over twisty tarmac roads in the hills to the east and north of Beirut. Feghali held a 16.2 second lead over his brother Abdo, with Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah in third place.

The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and co-driver Nicky Beech began the day seeded at five and held an unofficial seventh overall after the opening two loops of asphalt stages in their Subaru Impreza WRX STI, run by Ron Cremen with support from Pirelli and the Finance House. They were lying second of the crews registered for the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, despite a poor tyre choice for the first loop of stages, which cost them around one minute.

“The plan this morning was to put the disappointment of the last two rallies behind us and push as hard as we could without taking any risks,” admitted Khalid Al-Qassimi. “The tarmac here is very technical and it is easy to make a mistake. The surfaces and contours are so different. You have to judge each corner on its own merits. Some of the corners are very slippery, where the asphalt is softer. It takes some getting used to. We were the only team to make the wrong tyre choice, but now I will push harder to push myself and try and catch the leaders.”

Tarmac rally specialists Abdo and Roger Feghali began the event as favourites to take victory on the slippery asphalt. Roger held the upper hand in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX over the opening two stages, but Abdo Feghali hit back by tying his brother in the fourth stage, with Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah in third place.

Roger duly headed into the fifth stage with a nine second lead over his brother, with Lebanon’s Doumit Bou Doumit in third place and Al-Attiyah, a further seven seconds adrift in fourth. But Abdo eased his pace over the broken tarmac of the fifth special and slipped a further seven seconds behind his brother. Al-Attiyah inherited third, despite a flat tyre, when Doumit Bou Doumit lost 10 minutes with mechanical problems in SS5.

Lebanon’s Fadi Hayek, Rahal Rahi and Elie Germany were well-placed inside the top 10, with Khalid Al-Qassimi heading Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum by 29 seconds in seventh. Michel Saleh, Abdullah Al-Qassimi and Amjad Farrah were also running close behind.

Oman’s Nizar Al-Shanfari. Shanfari blew his turbo on the road section to the first stage of the morning and was forced to retire, Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri was withdrawn from the event in mysterious circumstances before the start and Bahrain’s Hassan Al-Sadadi suffered a fuel pump failure on the road section after the third stage and was forced to retire.

The competitive action had begun late on Friday evening with a timed super special stage at Sport City, near Beirut airport. The special marked the first time that crews had taken part in the opening Lebanese stage in pairs and Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah set the fastest time in front of a massive crowd. Roger Feghali was second quickest and Jordan’s Amjad Farrah was third.

Power Horse-backed Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi won the battle of the energy drinks, by pipping his Red Bull-backed rival Abdo Feghali in their shared qualifying heat.

Tomorrow (Sunday) is the second and final leg of the Rally of Lebanon with teams tackling a further eight timed special stages near the renowned Kefraya vineyards and in the Zandouka and Btegrine areas. The official podium finish takes place at the ATCL at 6pm on Sunday evening.

Rally of Lebanon – positions after SS5 (unofficial):
1. Roger Feghali (RL)/Nabil Njeim (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 43m 37.3s
2. Abdo Feghali (RL)/Joseph Matar (RL) Subaru Impreza WRX ST 43m 53.5s
3. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 44m 37.7s

MERC REGISTERED DRIVERS
7. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Nicky Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 46m 27.9s
8. Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 46m 56.38s
10. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ziad Chehab (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 47m 07.8s
11. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Gaby Khoury (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 47m 14.9s
13. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Nicola Arena (I) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 48m 35.3s

Ends

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Date issued: 01/07/2006

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