MERC Al Attiyah begins Dakar challenge as QMMF prepare MERC opener

2008 Qatar International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1

For immediate release
Friday, January 4th, 2008



DOHA (Qatar): Qatar’s top rally driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah begins his quest for glory in the gruelling Euromilhoes Dakar Rally in Lisbon, Portugal, on Saturday morning, as officials at the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) continue their detailed preparations for the forthcoming Qatar International Rally. The opening round of the 2008 FIA Middle East Rally Championship takes place on January 24th-26th.


Under the presidency of Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, the QMMF have been given the responsibility of getting the new regional rally series after off to the best possible start and clerk of the course Elie Semaan has opted for some new and several revised special stages in the challenging Qatar desert.


“We are well on track with the rally now,” said Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah. “Everyone at the QMMF wishes Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah the very best of success in the Dakar Rally. He proved in the UAE at the end of last year that he has the pace to win stages outright. We hope that he has a safe rally in Africa, as we continue to finalise our plans at the QMMF for our home international rally in three weeks time.”


The championship will again be dominated by Group N cars, such as the Subaru Impreza WRX STi and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution XI, but both 1600 and Super 2000 are also permitted to enter the rounds of the series in Qatar, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Dubai.


Assuming that Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah reaches his goal of a finish on the Dakar Rally in Senegal on Sunday, January 20th, he will head directly back to Doha to begin preparations for the opening round of the regional series. He is entered in the Dakar Rally with Swedish co-driver Tina Thorner at the wheel of a powerful diesel-engined BMW X3CC, built by the X-raid team in Trebur, Germany, under the management of Sven Quandt. Nasser has the 1993 event winner Bruno Saby as his team mate, along with Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit, Brazilian Paolo Nobre and Portugal’s Miguel Barbosa.


“I have a good chance of taking a podium finish this year,” said Al-Attiyah from Lisbon on Friday. “The team has worked very hard on our car. Our performance on the Desert Challenge proved that we have the car and the pace to win the Dakar. I enjoyed working with Tina from the start. She is experienced and was a great asset. It will not be easy to win the Dakar, but it is a dream of mine to become the first Arab driver ever to succeed on this rally. I will try my best. I was sixth last time, but could easily have been third.”



Al-Attiyah won last year’s event in Qatar and clinched the regional title on a controversial final round in Dubai at the start of December. He should be back in Doha in time to begin his two-day reconnaissance of the revised route in the Qatar desert on Tuesday, January 22nd and is the undoubted favourite for victory on his home event.


Officials at the QMMF are expecting entries from as far afield as Austria, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the UAE, Oman, Jordan and Cyprus for the season’s opener. Entries close on Friday, January 11th 2008 and  administration and registration formalities will switch from the QMMF in Doha to the Losail circuit on Wednesday, January 23rd.


The event gets underway on Friday, January 25th at 08.30hrs and competitive action is expected to finish on Saturday afternoon. There will be an official podium ceremony at the Losail circuit, north of Doha, from 14.30hrs.


For further information about the 2008 Qatar International Rally, contact the Qatar Motor and Motor Cycle Federation, PO Box 8708, Doha, Qatar, Tel: + 974 437 9884/9885, Fax: + 974 437 9761, E-mail: info@qmmf.com and website: www.qmmf.com


Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, International Press Officer, 2008 Qatar International Rally, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)





Date issued: 04/01/2008

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