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MERC Nasser Al Attiyah clinches victory in Syrian International Rally

2007 Syrian International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship

For immediate release
Saturday, June 9th, 2007

QATAR'S NASSER AL-ATTIYAH TAKES VICTORY IN SYRIA
AS KHALID AL-QASSIMI CLOSES IN ON SECOND TITLE

UAE's Al-Qassimi brothers take second and third places;
Fourth for Qatar's Al-Marri; Lebanon's Saleh seals fifth

SEDNAYA (Syria): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson maintained their slim chance of retaining their FIA Middle East Rally Championship title by winning a gripping Syrian International Rally in Sednaya on Saturday.

The pair collected 10 championship points, but a defiant second place for the hard-battling UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and co-driver Nicky Beech ensured that they remained 11 points clear of their arch rivals in the title race. Al-Qassimi was frequently on the pace of his long-term rival over the course of the weekend and a fascinating Loeb versus Grönholm-style duel was the outcome.

This year's Rally of Lebanon has now been officially postponed and may be cancelled at a Middle East organisers' meeting in Sednaya tomorrow (Sunday). This means that Al-Attiyah would need to overturn the 11-point deficit on the final two rounds of the series in Cyprus and Dubai to prevent Al-Qassimi repeating his 2004 title triumph.

~It's great to win the rally and keep in the title hunt, but it is a big ask now for me to win the title for the fourth time,~ said Al-Attiyah. ~If the Lebanon event is cancelled I will lose a crucial points-scoring chance. All credit to Khalid. He drove very well and deserved his result here.~

Al-Qassimi was delighted with his performance: ~I showed here that my pace is fast and I have taken a big step to regaining my championship title. I won the rally here in Syria in 2004, the year that I won my title. This result was another important milestone.~

Sharjah's Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and British co-driver Steve Lancaster maintained third overall in their Subaru Impreza to keep their slim title hopes alive. Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri pedalled his Subaru to a fine fourth place and Lebanon's Michel Saleh collected four valuable points for fifth position

The promising new Saudi driver Yazeid Al-Rajhi leapt to sixth over the closing stages, Kuwait's Saleh Bin Eidan was seventh, but the ever-improving London-based Lebanese driver Nicolai Georgiou slipped to an unofficial eighth on the final stage. Syria's Mohammed Hamsho and Amjad Farrah completed the top 10.

Khalid Al-Qassimi whittled Al-Attiyah's overnight 32.7-second lead down to just 19.9 seconds with a scintillating time through the 20km Dier Atteyah stage, the first of six specials in leg two. He repeated the feat through the Mrah special and reduced the deficit to just 10.9 seconds. Al-Attiyah duly responded in the 10th Nabk stage to extend his lead to 25.2 seconds. Abdullah Al-Qassimi, Misfer Al-Marri and Michel Saleh maintained their positions inside the top five.

Amjad Farrah won his appeal to have the bulk of the time he lost on the second stage removed and he rose from 20th to 11th overall at the start of the day. He was running as the seventh registered championship driver and stood to gain crucial points if he could maintain his momentum. After the first stage of the morning he had displaced Saudi Arabia's Yazeid Al-Rajhi and Syria's Mohammed Hamsho to take ninth overall and maintained that position through the next two stages. Meanwhile, Syria's Mirar Al-Homsi had begun a sensational climb through the field and displaced both Nicolai Georgiou and Michel Saleh during his rise to fifth place.

A repeat of the three stages stood between Al-Attiyah and his third win of the season. Al-Qassimi was prepared to see what developed in the re-run of Dier Atteyah before deciding whether to concede defeat. The UAE driver edged 3.7 seconds closer to his Qatari rival and set up a grandstand finale to another exciting round of the regional series.

Al-Qassimi was again faster in the re-run of the Mrah stage, but he was only able to reduce Al-Attiyah's lead to 20.7 seconds. It was asking too much of the 2004 champion to overhaul the Qatari on the final Nabk special and the duo duly held station over the final kilometres to seal the top two places and emphasise their superiority over the rest of the field. Al-Homsi's brave run came to an end at the end of SS11 and Kuwait's Ahmed Al-Kharss rolled his Citroën out of contention in SS10.

Major support for this year's Syrian International Rally came from Hamsho International, with further sponsorship from the Sheraton Ma'aret Sednaya, the Syrian Insurance Company, Radio Syria Alghad,
and Kawalees. The event was the fifth round of the 2007 FIA Middle East Rally Championship and was organised by the Syrian Automobile Club (SAC) under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism.

Positions after SS13 - (unofficial @ 15.50hrs):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 20m 35.9s
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Nick Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 21m 11.9s
3. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 29m 10.7s
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Hamad Al-Marri (QA) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 30m 28.9s
5. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ahmad Ghaziri (RL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 34m 23.1s
6. Yazeid Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Saleh Alabdulahi (KSA) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 37m 21.8s
7. Salah Bin Eidan (KWT)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 2h 37m 34.3s
8. Nicolai Georgiou (RL)/Joseph Mattar (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 2h 41m 01.2s
9. Mohammed Hamsho (SYR)/Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 41m 58.0s
10. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Nicola Arena (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 2h 42m 21.7s

2007 FIA Middle East Rally Championship
Driver Championship - positions after round 5 of 8 (*7)
(*pending decision on Rally of Lebanon):
1. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 41 pts
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 30 pts
3. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 29 pts
4. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 25 pts
5. Michel Saleh (RL) 21 pts
6. Nicholai Georgiou (RL) 9 pts
7. Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 8 pts
8. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 7 pts
8. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA) 7 pts
10. Andreas Wimmer (A) 5 pts
11. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY) 3 pts
12. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT) 2 pts
12. Mohammed Al-Mannai (QA) 2 pts
14. Essam Al-Nejadi (KWT) 1 pt

Ends

For further media information:
Lutfi Estwani, Arabic Press Officer, Tel: + 963 11 232 3706, Fax: + 963 11 231 2785, Mobile: + 963 93234445
or
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, International Press Officer, Syrian International Rally, Syria mobile: + 963 947908502, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)

www.syrianrally.com
www.merc-fia.com


Date issued: 09/06/2007

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