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MERC Nasser Al Attiyah edges into first leg lead in Rally Oman 2007

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

For immediate release
Thursday, March 15th, 2007

QATAR’S NASSER AL-ATTIYAH LEADS AFTER LEG ONE OF RALLY OMAN 2007

Team Abu Dhabi’s Khalid Al-Qassimi holds second; Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah in third;
Jordan’s Amjad Farrah in fourth; UAE’s Michel Saleh holds sixth;
Disappointment for young Georgiou; Qatar’s Ahmed Al-Kuwari crashes out

MUSCAT (Oman): Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and British co-driver Chris Patterson held an unofficial 53.4 second lead in Rally Oman 2007, the second round of the 2007 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, after the opening leg’s seven special stages between Muscat and Quriyat on Thursday.

Arch rival and 2004 regional champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi held second position with co-driver Nick Beech in his Team Abu Dhabi Subaru Impreza WRX STi. Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi was third and Jordan’s Amjad Farrah held fourth place.

Thirty crews from nine countries headed into the first 12.14km Sawaqim stage and Khalid Al-Qassimi matched Al-Attiyah through the opener. But the Qatari, who was still suffering from a minor neck injury sustained during last week’s Rally Mexico accident, was fastest in both stages two and three and reached the first service point with a 46-second lead, before setting a further fastest time in SS4.

Al-Qassimi redressed the balance in the fifth Wadi Dhaiqa stage and reduced Al-Attiyah lead to 41.4 seconds, but the Qatari edged further clear in the seventh stage and will start Friday’s final leg with a commanding lead.

“I have been in a fair amount of pain with my neck,” said Al-Attiyah. “But I have managed to keep to a good pace and held the lead from the start.”

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and Steve Lancaster sustained a slow puncture at the end of the third stage and complained that they were losing time in the loose surface sections. Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari was classified fifth, while Khalid Al-Zadjali was the leading Omani driver in eighth overall. Kuwait’s Mufeed Mubarak lost his place in the top six on the fifth stage and slipped to 11th.

Lebanon’s Michel Saleh held sixth overall at the end of the leg in a City of Arabia-backed Subaru Impreza WRX STi that he had acquired from the UAE’s Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum. Saleh was getting to grips with the new car and enjoying his new partnership with Turkish co-driver Kujlar Sular.

Late entrant Nizar Al-Shanfari managed to piece together a deal to run Hassan Al-Sadadi’s Subaru Impreza WRX STi, while the Bahraini acted as on-event team manager for Al-Shanfari, Saudi Arabia’s Majid Al-Ghamdi and Italy’s Agostino Ontano. Ghamdi retired near the end of the day after sustaining flat tyres.

Ahmed Al-Kuwari had the dubious distinction of being the first retirement: the Qatari crashed his Mitsubishi Lancer into a wall a mere 200 metres into the opening test and the organisers were forced to stop the stage for around 30 minutes to remove the stricken car. Another early retirement was the Team Abu Dhabi driver Musaed Al-Murar, who rolled his Subaru Impreza.

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. Crucial support comes from Gulf Air, OEPNA, Precision Tune, Infocomm, Baabood LLC, Intercontinental Hotels, Muscat Municipality and Red Bull.

“On behalf of the organisers, I would like to thank His Excellency Mohammed bin Hamoud Al-Tobi, under secretary at the Ministry of Tourism, for his department’s invaluable support to Rally Oman 2007,” said event spokesman Nick Hodge. “Without their help this weekend’s event would not have been possible.”

Tomorrow (Friday) is the final day of Rally Oman 2007 and crews will tackle a further seven special stages before the ceremonial finish at the Muscat Intercontinental Hotel at 18.00hrs. Competitive action gets underway with a 20.79km special stage at Al-Hajir from 07.51hrs and this is repeated at 10.50hrs. The morning’s action also consists of two runs through the popular Yitti stage at 08.39hrs and 11.38hrs.

After a lunchtime regroup in Muscat, the final three special stages take place in the Al Hajir, Sawaqim and Arqi areas. Despite triple usage of some of the stages, the organising have arranged for the gravel roads to be repaired after each pass to ensure that they are in a good condition for competing cars running at the back of the field.

Positions after SS7 (unofficial @ 18.00hrs):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB)Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 06m 50s
2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Nick Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 07m 43s
3. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 1h 09m 58s
4. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Nicola Arena (I) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 1h 11m 47s
5. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII 1h 12m 38s
6. Michel Saleh (RL)/Kujlar Sular (TR) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 13m 08s
7. Salah Bin-Eidan (KWT)/Abdulaziz Redhai (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI 1h 15m 13s
8. Khalid Al-Zadjali (OM)/Naif Al-Obaidani (OM) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII 1h 16m 16s
9. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Marwan Al-Raie (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 1h 17m 33s
10. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Hamad Al-Marri (QA) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 18m 27s
11. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT)/Yousef Al-Asmar (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 1h 19m 08s

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, Tel: + 968 24680051, Mobile: + 968 92179263,
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com, www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases).

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

Date issued: 15/03/2007

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