MERC Middle East rally drivers prepare for Syrian International Rally

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

For immediate release
Wednesday, June 4th, 2008




Regional co-drivers play musical chairs before Syrian Rally

Co-driver Michael Orr returns to scene of famous 2004 win

SEDNAYA (Syria): The Middle East’s top rally drivers have just completed two days of reconnaissance for the 8th Syrian International Rally, round three of this year’s FIA Middle East Rally Championship, which gets underway in Damascus on Thursday afternoon (June 5th) and finishes in Sednaya on Saturday. 


Thirty-five cars from 11 countries will tackle two days of gravel special stages in the Syrian desert on the event that is being run by the Syrian Automobile Club with the support of Syria’s Ministry of Tourism. The official start ceremony will take place at 18.00 hrs on Thursday evening in the Abu Rummaneh or diplomatic area of Damascus.


Several co-drivers have swapped rides for the third round of the regional series. Frenchman Matthieu Baumel is normally seen alongside Guerlain Chicherit as a member of the X-raid Cross-Country rally team, but has tackled select events in the Middle East this season. He is set to replace Britain’s Steve Lancaster in the navigator’s seat for Saudi Arabian driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi for the first time. Lancaster, who will undergo a neck operation next Tuesday in the UK, switches to a competitive role alongside Syrian driver Mohammed Hamsho.


Misfer Al-Marri lies second overall in the regional championship and is reunited with his former Qatari co-driver Adel Hussein for the Syrian event, while Oman’s Nizar Al-Shanfari teams up with British co-driver Daniel Barritt for the second time after running with Ieuan Thomas in Qatar. The UAE’s experienced Wael Marjan partners Qatar’s Mubarak Al-Hajri and Ireland’s Michael Morrissey steps into the breach alongside Kuwait’s Salah Bin Eidan.


Al-Marri’s main championship rival Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah is in the middle of one of the most hectic motor sport programmes of any driver in the world. In the last month alone he has tackled the Central Europe Rally, the Cyprus Rally, the Transiberico Rally and the Acropolis Rally in Greece and heads straight off to the WRC Rally of Turkey next week after trying to defend his Syrian Rally title.


He has had mixed fortunes in recent weeks and has been unable to continue his winning streak: Al-Attiyah finished second in Transiberico and Cyprus, but retired in Greece while leading the P-WRC category and was sidelined in the Central Europe Rally after setting several fastest times.


The Qatari is currently receiving medical treatment for a mild throat infection, but has not missed the crucial recce of the new Syrian stages to the north of Sednaya and is sure to be the favourite for victory at the weekend. “I need to get back into winning ways and make sure that I win this event,” said Al-Attiyah, although his car did sustain some pre-event damage during a test in Syria at the start of the week.


Ulster co-driver Michael Orr is marking his return to Sednaya and the Syrian Rally for the first time since he won the event outright with Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi in 2004 on the way to clinching the regional championship. “It seems a long time since I was here, but all the memories soon came flooding back,” admitted Orr, who will be co-driving one of three Ford Fiestas as part of the new Abu Dhabi Junior Rally Team. “It’s a new challenge but I know, for sure, that I will not be winning the event this year!”


Visual media from around the Middle East and Western Europe have also been arriving in Syria to record television footage of the event, the start and finish of which will be beamed live around the Levant by the host Syrian network. Several satellite stations from Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Lebanon, Cyprus and Jordan will either record or receive footage of the event for transmission, in addition to a crew producing a 40-minute programme for Sky Sports’ ‘World Motor Sport’ programme in the UK.


Syria’s premier motor sport event has attracted support from Jupeter rent-a-car, the Sheraton Ma’aret Sednaya, Honda, Nissan and Radio Syria Alghad.




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





Date issued: 04/06/2008

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