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MERC Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi bids to extend championship lead in Cyprus

Troodos Rally 2007
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3 of 8

For immediate release
Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

UAE’S SHEIKH KHALID AL-QASSIMI BIDS TO
EXTEND CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD IN CYPRUS

MERC leader Al-Qassimi heads Team Abu Dhabi challenge;
Stiff competition expected from Al-Attiyah and Tsouloftas

NICOSIA (Cyprus): The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and co-driver Nick Beech arrived on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus this week, keen to extend their four-point lead in the 2007 FIA Middle East Rally Championship on this weekend’s Troodos Rally, which starts on Friday evening.

The 2004 FIA Middle East Champion has won two of the last three events in the region – including a stunning win on the recent Rally Oman and a second successive victory in the Dubai International Rally last December – and heads to Nicosia with 18 points and a four-point lead over his brother Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi in the extended eight-round regional series. Jordan’s Amjad Farrah lies third overall on 11 points, while the defending champion and last year’s Troodos Rally winner Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah is fourth.

“This is developing into a very exciting season for Team Abu Dhabi,” said Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, who heads the Abu Dhabi-backed team in his Subaru Impreza WRX STi, which was built by Prodrive in England and is run on events in the region by Australian Ron Cremen and his team of mechanics.

“I would like to personally thank Sheikh Sultan Tahnoun Al-Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and tyre supplier Pirelli for their superb support this season. I am determined to pay back their loyalty with a second FIA Middle East Championship title.”

The Troodos Rally 2007 will be the first of two Cypriot events in this year’s calendar, following the FIA’s decision to permit the Cyprus Rally – a candidate for the FIA World Rally Championship – to be included in the series on October 12th-14th.

But Sheikh Khalid knows full well that he has the momentum in this year’s series and a top two finish this weekend would stand him in good stead to clinch a second title. “We have made an excellent start to the year and now have an eight-point lead over Nasser. He always pushes very hard in Cyprus and will be the main competition, I’m sure, but I just need to keep scoring championship points and maintaining the pressure.”

The first of the two Cyprus events is based in the capital Nicosia and uses twisty, gravel special stages to the south of the city in the foothills towards Larnaca. It is one of the most specialised events in the regional calendar and always attracts a strong local Cypriot contingent, including championship regular Andreas Tsouloftas in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and another former winner Andreas Peritikos.

Other drivers sure to offer a challenge for the top five include Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri, Kuwait’s Mufeed Mubarak and Lebanon’s Michel Saleh.

The event is organised by the Cyprus Automobile Association (CAA) and gets underway with a ceremonial start in Eleftheria Square in Nicosia on Friday evening (April 20th), prior to two days of high-speed action over the weekend. Servicing will be centraliased at Nicosia’s International State Fair and the event is due to finish in Nicosia on Sunday afternoon.

2007 FIA MERC Drivers’ Championship (after round 2 of 8):

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, etc

Ends

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Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, NCH Building, Upper Bar, Newport, Shropshire TF10 7EH, United Kingdom, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com, www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

Date issued: 17/04/2007

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