MERC Abu Dhabi Junior Rally Team set for debut in Syria

2008 Syrian International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3 of 7

For immediate release
Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Three rookie UAE drivers set for MERC appearance in Ford Fiestas
Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi delighted with launch of Abu Dhabi Junior Team

ABU DHABI (UAE): The new Abu Dhabi Junior Rally Team will make its first competitive appearance in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, when three cars are entered in this weekend's Syrian International Rally. The third round of the regional series takes place in the deserts to the north of Damascus on June 5th-7th.

Emirati drivers Mansour Al-Suwaidi, Majed Al-Shami and Rashid Al-Shami will use three Ford Fiestas that have been prepared by M-Sport in the United Kingdom. The team has been put together by former FIA Middle East Rally Champion and BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRC driver Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, with the support of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which is run under the chairmanship of His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al-Nahyan.

The front-wheel drive cars are fitted with two-litre engines and will be run on the events under the management of Australian technical director Ron Cremen and his team of experienced rally mechanics. The Ulster duo of Allan Harryman and Michael Orr will be joined by Australian Dale Moscatt as the three team co-drivers. Three Ford Fiestas will subsequently be entered on the remaining four rounds of the regional series in Lebanon, Jordan, Cyprus and Dubai.

Orr won the regional series with Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi in 2004 and has returned this season to be the UAE driver's regular partner in the FIA World Rally Championship. Harryman is the son of the veteran WRC legend Terry Harryman and has over 10 years' experience rallying in the region and took part in the recent WRC round in Jordan.

"I am proud that we have been able to put together this new Abu Dhabi Junior Rally Team," enthused Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi. "It is my dream to see these young drivers progress in the sport and one day line up at the top of the leader boards in both the regional rally championship and the WRC. Our goal is to nurture the new talent from the UAE and see them move up through the ranks."

The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is one of the most progressive sponsors in world motorsport and already backs the official BP Ford World Rally Team and the Ford Focus WRCs of Mikko Hirvonen, Jari-Matti Latvala and Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi on all rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship, in addition to supporting a Spirit of the Rally award on each round of the global series.

The Abu Dhabi Junior Rally Team has made a couple of appearances on UAE national rallies this season already, but the step up to the three-day Syrian International Rally will be a major test for Al-Suwaidi, Al-Shami and Al-Shami. The Syrian desert features harsh and unforgiving terrain and all three will need to drive cautiously to ensure that they reach the finish on Saturday afternoon (June 7th).

The event gets underway with a ceremonial start in Damascus on Thursday, before a provisional 35 cars tackle two days of testing gravel stages in the area to the north of the rally base at Sednaya and the capital, Damascus.


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153 E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)



Date issued: 02/06/2008

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