MERC International teams finalise plans for Qatar Rally
2008 Qatar International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1
For immediate release
Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008
INTERNATIONAL TEAMS FINALISE
PREPARATIONS FOR QATAR RALLY
Qatar outings for European co-drivers Morrissey and Thomas
DOHA (Qatar): International rally drivers and co-drivers from 11 countries spent Tuesday and today (Wednesday) carefully checking the route of this weekend’s NBK Qatar International Rally, the opening round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, in the challenging deserts to the north of Doha.
Damp, cool and overcast conditions prevailed on Tuesday, as crews were able to check out the revised route for the opening Losail, Timbak and Heritage special stages. It was drier and slightly warmer for Wednesday’s permitted runs through the Thakira, Laffan and Al-Khor specials.
Clerk of the course Elie Semaan has also introduced a new NBK-sponsored test and a brand new QMMF-backed 10th and 14th special stage for the second day, although both the Laffan and Al-Khor timed tests are similar to 2007 for the provisional 29-car field.
“The stages seem to be very good, clean and nothing too rough, although you can still see some evidence of the recent rain,” admitted Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson, who sits alongside Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah in the new Prodrive-designed Qatar Rally Team Subaru Impreza N14. Patterson has also been hosting the French factory X-raid team co-driver Matthieu Baumel over the last couple of days in Doha.
“Now that the Dubai Rally has been cancelled at the end of the season, it is important that Nasser and I get to the finish in Qatar. It’s a shortened championship now and the emphasis will be on caution here with the new car.”
Nicosia-based car dealer Omeros Terezopolous will be bidding for his first finish in the FIA Middle East Championship at his second attempt with co-driver Yiannis Ioannou. The sole Cypriot on the entry list failed to finish last December’s Dubai event in his Kuwait-built Mitsubishi and has made a concerted effort to prepare fully on this occasion.
Meanwhile, two additional European co-drivers will grace the entry list at the start on Friday morning. Oman’s Nizar Al-Shanfari will wheel out his new Subaru Impreza WRX STi and has Ian Thomas reading his notes for the first time. “I have a good feeling about this season,” admitted the Omani. “We have a new car and are looking forward to a fresh start.”
Irishman Michael Morrissey returns to regional rally action alongside Kuwait’s Saleh Bin Eidan in the STS Racing Team Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. “It’s nice to be back over here competing,” said Morrissey. “I have many happy memories from my time in Qatar rallying with Hamed Al-Suwaidi several years ago and I hope to achieve the same success with Saleh.”
The UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thafiri are just two non-starters from the original list of 31 cars.
Senior FIA officials have also arrived in Doha to carry out their assessment of the regional rally series’ opener. Derek Ledger is the Vice-President of the FIA and also acts as the FIA Commissioner for the Middle East region. He takes up his role as Chairman of the Stewards in Doha, alongside Lebanon’s Jacques Salha and Qatar’s Sultan Al-Muraiki. Cypriot George Papadakis is the appointed FIA Technical Delegate and the event will be observed for the sport’s governing body by Sweden’s Jan Sandstrom.
Tomorrow (Thursday) cars will undergo strict scrutineering at the Losail International Circuit, where FIA appointed officials will check legality and compliance with rigid technical guidelines. Leading drivers will then join Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, President of the Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation, for the official pre-event press conference at 2pm in the media centre at Losail.
The two-day, 16-special stage NBK Qatar International Rally gets underway on Friday morning and is being organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) under the presidency of Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah. In a total route of 593.60km, there will be 242.20 competitive kilometres.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org and website: www.qmmf.com
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, Chief Press Officer, 2008 Qatar International Rally, Losail International Circuit, Media Centre, Doha, Qatar, Tel: + 974 4729620, Fax: + 974 4729621, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)