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MERC Hamed Al Wahaibi pledges to push Rally Oman into the world spotlight

Rally Oman 2007
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 2 of 7

For immediate release
Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

HAMED AL-WAHAIBI PLEDGES TO PUSH
RALLY OMAN INTO THE WORLD SPOTLIGHT

Rally Oman 2007 gets underway with ceremonial start in Muscat;
Opening Oman special stages set to fire into life on Thursday morning

MUSCAT (Oman): Hamed Al-Wahaibi, the chairman of the organising committee of this weekend's Rally Oman, is looking forward to pushing motorsport in the Sultanate of Oman to another level. The two-day, second round of this year's FIA Middle East Rally Championship got underway with the ceremonial start at the Intercontinental Hotel in Muscat on Wednesday afternoon. Thirty drivers from nine nations crossed the start line.

Al-Wahaibi is a former regional Group N champion and a regular competitor in the FIA World Rally Championship. He will chair the organising team for the first time this weekend. But the Omani rally star, who took up his exciting new post a month ago, is keen to see Rally Oman push on with an ambitious bid to become a candidate round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

The Sultanate of Oman benefits from some of the finest flowing gravel special stages anywhere in the world and Al-Wahaibi is looking to build a top class rally around the infrastructure put into place by the Oman Automobile Association.

~I am very proud to be a major part of the organising team for Rally Oman,~ said Al-Wahaibi. ~The Oman Automobile Association helped me in my rallying career and I owe it to my country to work to promote this rally and take it to another level.

~We need to build a national rally championship of, perhaps, six rounds and encourage new people to take part in the sport in Oman. Then, I want to base a future WRC candidate round in Oman, possibly as early as 2008, using as many Omani nationals on the organising team as possible.~

Al-Wahaibi's rallying career began in 1997 and he last competed in a WRC event in Japan 2005, but the Omani is relishing the challenge of a key organising role. ~Just look at Bahrain as a case in point,~ adds Al-Wahaibi. ~Formula One came to the region and now we have Abu Dhabi waiting in the wings and set to join the F1 calendar as well. The Jordan Rally will become a round of the WRC in 2008 and that will be a massive boost for the entire sport of rallying in the Middle East region. I wish the organisers in Jordan every success with their venture.

~The FIA are keen for the events to adopt a rotation system and I am sure that Oman would benefit from this in the future, with our superb location, warm hospitality and quality of special stages. This is the long-term goal, but I need to make sure that we establish the foundations first and that entails working on a key organising team and establishing our national rally championship.~

This weekend's event is being supported by the Oman Ministry of Tourism with assistance from the Ministry of Sports Affairs and is organised by Intevents and the Oman Automobile Association.

Cars took part in the official ceremonial start on Wednesday afternoon at the Intercontinental Hotel in Muscat, but the special stage action is confined to Thursday and Friday this year, after organisers took the decision to do away with the customary super special stage.

Non-starters from the original 36-car entry list include the UAE's Sadiq Fadhel, Ron Oakeley, Yayha Al-Amri and Michael Ziegler, while Bahrain's Hassan Al-Sadadi and Kuwait's Meshari Al-Thafiri also failed to start.

Crucial support for this year's rally comes from Gulf Air, OEPNA, Precision Tune, Infocomm, Baabood LLC, Intercontinental Hotels, Muscat Municipality and Red Bull.

Thursday's action fires into life with the Sawaqim special stage at 08.23hrs and there will be a further six special stages on Thursday. After the opening stage teams will tackle the Arqi and Yitti sections. According to Al-Wahaibi, the Yitti special stage has been referred to as one of the finest in the world by regular WRC co-driver Chris Patterson, who won last year's FIA Middle East rally series with Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, the pre-event favourite to win Rally Oman 2007.

Yitti will be followed by service at the Intercontinental Hotel and a run through the 13.36km special at Wadi Dhaiqa. This test will be run a second time in the afternoon and repeat runs through the Sawaqim and Arqi stages bring the day's action to a conclusion. Rally Oman 2007 is due to finish at the Intercontinental Hotel at 18.00hrs on Friday afternoon.

Leading starters:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Nick Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX Sti
3. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX
4. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Nicola Arena (I) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX
5. Michel Saleh (RL)/Cagral (TR) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
6. Khalifa Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII
7. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM)/George Aletraris (CY) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
8. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT)/Yousef Al-Asmar (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII
9. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Hamad Al-Marri (QA) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
10. Khalid Al-Zadjali (OM)/Naif Al-Obaidani (OM Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII

Ends

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, Rally Oman 2007, International Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Concert Gardens, Media Centre, Intercontinental Hotel, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, Mobile: + 968 92179263,
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com, www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

www.omanrally.com
www.merc-fia.com

Date issued: 14/03/2007

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