MERC Defending champion Al Attiyah leads bumper entry into Qatar Rally
2008 Qatar International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1 of 6
For immediate release
Thursday, January 24th, 2008
DEFENDING FIA MIDDLE EAST RALLY CHAMPION AL-
ATTIYAH LEADS BUMPER ENTRY INTO QATAR RALLY
Drivers from Lebanon, Cyprus, England, Egypt and the GCC set for showdown
Testing two-day desert route with new special stages planned by QMMF
DOHA (Qatar): Four-times FIA Middle East rally champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah heads a 29-car entry into the NBK Qatar International Rally, the opening round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, as he bids to start his 2008 championship campaign in winning style in Doha. The event is being organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) under the presidency of Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah.
Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah won the regional title in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007 and again teams up with Ulsterman Chris Patterson in Doha to give Prodrive’s new Subaru Impreza WRX N14 its world debut, although the car is also appearing in the Monte Carlo Rally this weekend.
The pair are undisputed favourites to retain their Qatar Rally title, but face competition from drivers from Qatar, Jordan, Oman, England, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and Cyprus, when the desert action gets underway on Friday morning. The Qatari’s closest challengers are likely to be Jordanian Amjad Farrah, Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri, Lebanon’s Michel Saleh, UK-based Lebanese driver Nick Georgiou and Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi, although the entry list has strength in depth this year.
Following the disappointing decision taken by UAE organisers to cancel the Dubai International Rally – originally scheduled for December 2008 - this year’s FIA Middle East rally series has a rather weaker look to it in terms of events in the calendar.
Rally Oman has also fallen off the draft FIA calendar, but Kuwaiti officials are currently putting the finishing touches to a new candidate event that will run next month. That means that the Qatar Rally will currently be followed by two rallies in Cyprus and rounds in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to decide the outcome of this year’s regional series.
Qatar will field no less than nine drivers this weekend, with Khalid Al-Suwaidi, Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah, Ahmed Al-Kuwari, Jaralla Jahman, Nasser Al- Suwaidi, Abdulrahman Al-Hajri and Mohammed Al-Marri joining Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Misfer Al-Marri at the start at the Losail International Circuit from 08.00hrs on Friday morning.
Kuwait is one of the GCC countries showing an appetite for motorsport at the present time and six Kuwaiti teams will take part in Qatar. Mufeed Mubarak leads the way in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 and is joined by the highly-rated Salah Bin Eidan, Essam Al-Nejadi, Hassan Youroudi, Meshari Al-Sabti and Shaker Al-Raies, the latter driving one of only two two-wheel drive cars on the entry list.
Motorsport officials in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are currently preparing for next month’s FIA Hail Saudi Baja, but three Saudi drivers have entered the regional rally series opener nonetheless. Yazeed Al-Rahji leads the way in his potent Subaru Impreza WRX STi and is joined by rallying stalwart Ahmed Al-Sabban in a Toyota Corolla entered in the A6 class and Majed Ghamdy.
Officials at Jordan Motorsport in Amman are currently flat out putting together exciting plans for the Hashemite Kingdom’s first ever round of the FIA World Rally Championship at the end of April, but the nation’s leading five drivers have all made the trip to Doha. Farrah is now a B-seeded driver and leads the way in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX and is joined by multiple national champion Faris Bustami, Mazan Tantash, Ammar Hijazi and Faris Hijazi.
Former Qatar Rally winner Nizar Al-Shanfari is the sole representative from the Sultanate of Oman with a Subaru Impreza, although the Omani is looking forward to the delivery of a new car for the next round of the series. Cypriot Omeros Terezopoulos, Egyptian Hassan Ali Abdul Basit and Britain’s David Scialom boost the international entry.
“We are delighted to see so many international teams here this weekend and wish them all a safe and successful rally,” said Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah. “Our team has made some subtle changes to the route and format of this year’s event, but we have retained the testing nature of the terrain which gives the Qatar Rally its own unique identity.”
The two-day, 16-special stage NBK Qatar International Rally gets underway on Friday morning at 09.10 hrs with the punishing 26.90km Losail special stage. Leg one consists of eight timed specials, split by three returns to the service park at the international circuit. Teams will also tackle the Heritage and Tinbak specials and a new NBK-supported test on Friday before returning to parc ferme at Losail from 16.20hrs.
In a total route of 593.60km, there will be 242.20 competitive kilometres over the two days, with the finish ceremony and podium scheduled for 15.30 hrs on Saturday afternoon.
Leading starters (top 10):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX N14
2. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Nicola Arena (I) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX
3. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Stephen McAuley (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2007
5. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ahmed Ghaziri (RL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2006
6. Nick Georgiou (GB)/Joseph Mattar (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX
7. Mufeed Mubarak (KT)/Saad Al-Melaifi (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII
8. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2007
9. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX
10. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Burhan Abu Khoura (HKJ) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2005
11. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM)/Ian Thomas (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2006
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
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