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MERC Khalid Al Qassimi takes dramatic victory in Rally Oman 2007

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

For immediate release
Friday, March 16th, 2007

UAE’S KHALID AL-QASSIMI TAKES CHAMPIONSHIP
LEAD WITH DRAMATIC VICTORY IN RALLY OMAN

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah crashes out of Rally Oman;
Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah and Jordan’s Farrah in second and third;
UAE Rally Team’s Saleh in fourth; Khalil Al-Zadjali finishes as leading Omani in sixth

MUSCAT (Oman): The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and co-driver Nicky Beech clinched their first ever victory in Rally Oman, after a dramatic final day’s action over seven demanding gravel stages in the Sultanate of Oman on Friday.

At the wheel of the Team Abu Dhabi Subaru Impreza WRX STi, the 2004 FIA Middle East Rally Champion, leapt into a four-point lead in the seven-round series after taking the lead for the first time on the 11th special stage.

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah looked on course to win Rally Oman for the fifth successive year, after extending his overall lead to 95 seconds on the 10th stage on Friday morning. But the defending FIA Middle East and PWRC champion, who had led from the start, dramatically crashed out of the event five kilometres from the finish of the 11th Yitti stage after leaving a rocky section of road at speed following a mechanical failure.

The impact with a large rock badly damaged the front of the Subaru Impreza, but both Nasser and co-driver Chris Patterson were uninjured. The incident marked the crew’s second serious accident in the space of nine days on opposite sides of the world.

“It’s a major boost to our season to win this rally for the first time,” said a delighted Al-Qassimi. “I didn’t have time to take in the fact that Nasser had crashed, because we had our own problems on the same stage. The track was rough and very rutted and we punctured a tyre and damaged the front suspension. I was just desperate to reach the finish of the special. This result makes the championship wide open now.”

“We were running well and then we think we broke the steering rack in the 11th stage and crashed head on into a big rock,” said Al-Attiyah. “The car is completely finished. The engine is gone. We are both okay, but now I have even more pain in my shoulder after the accident in Mexico last week...”

Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and British co-driver Steve Lancaster moved up to second place in the championship by taking a similar position in the overall standings, albeit 4m 53s behind the winners. Jordan’s Amjad Farrah and Italian co-driver Nicola Arena overcame propshaft and sump guard damage on the rocky surfaces to maintained their championship challenge with a solid third place.

The UAE Rally Team’s Michel Saleh benefited from City of Arabia backing to steer his new Subaru Impreza to a fine fourth position, after overhauling Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari on the second stage of the second leg. Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri was fifth and Khalil Al-Zadjali was the leading Omani driver home in sixth place.

Al-Attiyah began the final leg of seven special stages with a 1m 11s advantage over Khalid Al-Qassimi and he extended that to 1m 25s after winning the 20.79km Al Hajir special. Abdullah Al-Qassimi maintained a solid third and Farrah was comfortable in fourth place.

Al-Attiyah won the ninth stage by eight seconds, but the form driver was young Nicholai Georgiou, who had restarted under the SupeRally ruling after mechanical problems on Thursday. The UK-based son of former Oman national champion, Tony Georgiou, was fifth in SS8 and third in SS9, as he began to climb through the tail-enders.

It was a similar pattern in the 10th stage, with Georgiou again third quickest behind the two leaders. Farrah was forced to stop on the road section to the 11th stage to repair a damaged sump guard. “If I put as much driving effort into a Subaru, as I need to with the Mitsubishi, then maybe I would be right up there,” shrugged Farrah.

The contest was settled in Al-Qassimi’s favour after Al-Attiyah’s accident on the third run through the Yitti special, but the leading trio still had to survive the rigours of the remaining Al Hajir, Sawaqim and Arqi specials. Kuwait Mufeed Mubarak and Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari both fell foul of the treacherous 11th stage, Kuwait’s Salah Bin Eidan finished SS12 on three wheels and was set to go no further, but young Georgiou maintained his flying form to the finish with a string of impressive stage times. Al-Kuwari was sidelined with battery problems.

There was disappointment for Khalid Al-Suwaidi at the start of the eighth stage. The young Qatari revved his Mitsubishi on the start line of the special, damaged the clutch and was forced into retirement.

Several competitors failed to restart under SupeRally. Qatar’s Khalifa Khalifa Al-Attiyah suffered engine problems during leg one, Oman’s Nizar Al-Shanfari withdrew with an overheating engine, while both the UAE’s Musaed Al Murab and Oman’s Hamoud Al-Toqi rolled out of contention. Ibrahim Al-Abri suffered terminal engine-related problems and the Italian Agostino Ontano was forced to withdraw with overheating issues.

“I would like to thank the Government of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos for their invaluable support in helping us to put on a successful Rally Oman 2007,” said Hamed Al-Wahaibi, chairman of the organising committee. “The Oman Automobile Association laid faith in me in this new role and I will try and repay them by taking motorsport in the Sultanate of Oman to another level.”

“Now that the rally is over, it is evident that the popularity of rallying in Oman is strong and we will work together to fulfil the goal of taking Rally Oman into the prestigious FIA World Rally Championship in the future.”

This weekend’s event was supported by the Oman Ministry of Tourism, with assistance from the Ministry of Sports Affairs and was organised by Intevents and the Oman Automobile Association. Crucial support came from Gulf Air, OEPNA, Precision Tune, Infocomm, Baabood LLC, Intercontinental Hotels, Muscat Municipality and Red Bull.

The Troodos Rally is the next round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship and will take place in Cyprus in mid-April.

Positions after SS14 (provisional):
1. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Nick Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 26m 37s
2. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 31m 30s
3. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Nicola Arena (I) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 2h 36m 47s
4. Michel Saleh (RL)/Kujlar Sular (TR) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 37m 48s
5. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Hamad Al-Marri (QA) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 41m 16s
6. Khalil Al-Zadjali (OM)/Naif Al-Obaidani (OM) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII 2h 42m 00s
7. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Marwan Al-Raie (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 2h 42m 37s
8. David Scialom (GB)/ Thomas Mathias (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V 2h 56m 54s
9. Sultan Al-Ameri (UAE)/Mike Kidd Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 56m 58s
10. Andreas Wimmer (A)/Michael Kolbach (A) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 3h 03m 25s

2007 FIA Middle East Rally Championship
Driver Championship - positions after round 2 of 7:
1. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 18 pts
2. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 14 pts
3. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 11 pts
4. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 10 pts
5. Michel Saleh (RL) 5 pts
6. Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 4 pts
6. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 4 pts
8, Mufeed Mubarak (KWT) 3 pts
9. Nicholai Georgiou (RL) 2 pts
9. Andreas Wimmer (A) 2 pts
11. Mohammed Al-Mannai (QA) 1 pt
11. Ahmad Al-Kuwari (QA) 1 pt
11. Sultan Al Ameri (UAE) 1 pt

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: 16/03/2007

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