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MERC Feghali brothers take top two places in Rally of Lebanon

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

For immediate release
Sunday, July 2nd, 2006

LEBANON'S ROGER FEGHALI CLINCHES
VICTORY IN 29th RALLY OF LEBANON

UAE’s Khalid Al-Qassimi finishes third MERC driver;
Qatar’s Al-Attiyah takes third place to extend series lead

JOUNIEH (Lebanon): Lebanon’s Roger Feghali and co-driver Nabil Njeim maintained their faultless form to record a third win in the Rally of Lebanon in the last four years. The success also gave Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi its first victory on a round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) since Roger’s victory on the same event in 2004.

Feghali was shadowed by his brother Abdo throughout the 17 timed special stages and the Lebanese duo completed a Feghali family one-two on Abdo's first drive in a Subaru Impreza. The winning margin was a mere 57.2 seconds. Defending regional champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah claimed the maximum 10 points by finishing third to extend his championship lead, as both the Feghali brothers were not registered for MERC points.

The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and co-driver Nicky Beech began the day in fifth overall and second of the registered championship drivers, but an agonizing final stage puncture pushed the pair into seventh place and third in the points. Al-Qassimi had been struggling with a suspected bout of food poisoning during the day, but he duly moved into contention for the top three in the points’ standings in his Subaru Impreza WRX STI, run by Australia's Ron Cremen with support from Pirelli and the Finance House.

~Despite feeling unwell, this was a very satisfying performance for me and it puts me back into contention for second or third places in the championship,~ admitted Al-Qassimi. ~We overcame a poor tyre compound choice on the first day and set some very competitive times. It is not easy to do well here. The stages are fast, slippery and very difficult. The last stage flat tyre was very disappointing.~

Feghali had begun the final leg’s eight special stages with a lead over his brother of 30.2 seconds, with Al-Attiyah in third, Lebanon's Rodrigue Rahi in fourth and Khalid Al-Qassimi in fifth. Roger extended his lead by four seconds in the Zandouka stage, with a resurgent Doumit Bou Doumit tying with Al-Attiyah for third fastest. In the 27.9km of the Kefraya special, his brother regained one second, as Khalid Al-Qassimi and Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Ak-Maktoum maintained fifth and sixth overall.

Abdo regained a further three in the Bzebdine special, but there was no respite in the Bteghrine stage and Roger extended his overall lead to 37 seconds. The top eight held station in the overall standings after the day’s first tour of the four special stages, with Middle East registered drivers Al-Attiyah, Khalid Al-Qassimi, Suhail Bin Khalifa, Michel Saleh and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi holding third, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth overall, with Jordan's Amjad Farrah in 11th. A handful of seconds had separated Saleh and Abdullah Al-Qassimi throughout the event.

Over the repeat run of the Zandouka stage, Roger extended his lead to 42.4 seconds and the top 10 held station, with Al-Qassimi still feeling the affects of a bout of food poisoning. Roger's overall lead grew to 47.7 seconds after the final Kefraya special, as Al-Maktoum closed the gap on Al-Qassimi to 44.2 seconds in the battle for fifth place and two extra regional championship points.

Roger extended his lead to 49.7 seconds in the penultimate Bzebdine stage, as Al-Maktoum reduced Al-Qassimi's hold on fifth place to 39 seconds, but there was agony for Saleh, who lost his hold on seventh when he suffered mechanical problems before the special and was forced to retire in the service park in Jounieh.

Feghali's secured victory over his brother on the final special stage and Al-Attiyah confirmed third place and maximum points in the championship. Rodrigue Rahi and Suhail Bin Khalifa completed the top five. Doumit Bou Doumit, Khalid Al-Qassimi, Abdullah Al-Qassimi, Elie Dib and Farrah rounded off the top 10, with Doumit passing Al-Qassimi on the final stage.

The next round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship will be the Syrian International Rally at the start of September.

Rally of Lebanon – final positions after SS17 (unofficial):
1. Roger Feghali (RL)/Nabil Njeim (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 2h 58m 14.6s
2. Abdo Feghali (RL)/Joseph Matar (RL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 59m 11.8s
3. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 3h 01m 36.0s
4. Rodrigue Rahi (RL)/Georges Nader (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 3h 08m 50.7s
5. Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 3h 10m 22.9s
6. Doumit Bou Doumit (RL)/Louai Sakr (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutiojn VIII 3h 11m 41.7s
7. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Nicky Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 3h 11m 45.2s
8. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Gaby Khoury (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 3h 11m 59.0s
9. Elie Dib (RL)/Rony Abou Elias (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI 3h 15m 08.3s
10. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Nicola Arena (I) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 3h 20m 58.2s

FIA Middle East Drivers' Championship
positions after round 5 of 8 (unofficial)
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 50 pts
2. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE) 32 pts
3. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 21 pts
4. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 20 pts
5. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 17 pts
6. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 13 pts
7. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA) 7 pts, etc

FIA Middle East Co-Drivers' Championship
positions after round 5 of 8 (unofficial)
1. Chris Patterson (GB) 50 pts
2. Wael Marjan (UAE) 32 pts
3. Adel Hussein (QA) 22 pts
4. Nick Beech (GB) 17 pts
5. Steve Lancaster (GB) 15 pts
6. Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) 9 pts
7. Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) 6 pts, etc

Ends

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Date issued: 02/07/2006

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