MERC Khalid Al Qassimi holds third place after four stages in Cyprus

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

For immediate release
Saturday, April 21st, 2007


Defending champion Al-Attiyah claims slender advantage in Cyprus
Cypriot duo of Peritikos and Tsouloftas in second and fourth places

NICOSIA (Cyprus): The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and co-driver Nick Beech held third overall after four timed special stages of the 2007 Troodos Rally in Cyprus on Saturday. The current pacesetters in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship trailed early rally leaders Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Chris Patterson by a mere 33 seconds in their Team Abu Dhabi-backed Subaru Impreza WRX STi.

Al-Qassimi, the 2004 FIA Middle East Rally Champion, has backing for his 2007 rally programme from the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and Italian tyre supplier Pirelli and was handily-placed to mount a serious challenge over the four remaining stages on day one of one of the most difficult rounds of the regional championship.

Recent rain on the island of Cyprus had settled the dust in the foothills of the Troodos mountains and created ideal driving conditions for teams entered in this third round of the regional rally series, which developed into a four-car race from the start.

Cypriot Andreas Peritikos was fast out of the blocks and held a slender 17-second advantage over multiple Cyprus champion Andreas Tsouloftas after two special stages. Defending regional champion Al-Attiyah was third and Al-Qassimi slotted into fourth, a mere two seconds behind the Qatari.

Al-Attiyah had moved into the overall lead after the first timed stage, but Peritikos hit back with a punishing stage time in the second Asinou special to take the overall lead. Al-Attiyah complained about handling problems on the first two stages, but he was back on the pace in stage three, as Al-Qassimi set the second fastest time to move into striking distance of a podium place.

On the fourth Agios Nikolaos special, Al-Attiyah pipped Al-Qassimi for the fastest time, as the Qatari edged into a 17-second overall lead from 2002 Troodos Rally winner Peritikos. The championship-leading Al-Qassimi was third, nine seconds ahead of Cypriot Andreas Tsouloftas.

Jordan's Amjad Farrah, Qatar's Abdullah Al-Kuwari and Lebanon's Michel Saleh were struggling to maintain the pace of the leading quartet and were languishing down the leader board.

~I have made a good start to my challenge here in Cyprus, but there is still a long way to go,~ said Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, who admits that Sheikh Sultan Tahnoun Al-Nahyan has been an integral factor in setting up this year's exciting rally programme for Team Abu Dhabi.

~I'm in a good position to attack Nasser and the local drivers over the final 12 stages. The most important thing is to score championship points and maintain my lead, so that means a finish is of paramount importance. I have an eight-point lead over Nasser, so finishing second here would be ideal to keep me in a very strong position to take the title again.~

The third round of this year's regional rally series got underway in Eleftheria Square in Nicosia on Friday evening. In a total route of 790.80km, 240.10km are competitive.

Tomorrow (Sunday) teams will tackle a further eight timed special stages, starting with a 13.07km run through a testing special between Doryforikos and Delikipos at 07.58hrs. Runs through the Vavatsinia, Agios Onoufrios and Kofinou stages follow, before a service and regrouping halt at the State Fair. The four stages are repeated on Sunday afternoon, before the podium finish at 16.10hrs in Eleftheria Square.


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Date issued: 21/04/2007

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