MERC New Abu Dhabi Juniors make positive start in Syria

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

For immediate release
Friday, June 6th, 2008


Bader Al-Jabri leads the Abu Dhabi Juniors after three stages in Syria
Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi outlines exciting future for Abu Dhabi Junior Team

SEDNAYA (Syria): The three Abu Dhabi Junior Rally Team members made a promising start to their international rallying careers on day one of the Syrian International Rally, the third round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship and the first international event on which they have competed to date.

Abu Dhabi drivers Mansour Al-Suwaidi, Majed Al-Shamsi and Bader Al-Jabri are tackling the two-day desert event in a trio of M-Sport-prepared Ford Fiestas, after Rashid Al-Shamsi was replaced at the 11th hour by 23-year-old Al-Jabri, who tackled the first of the two UAE national rallies in Sharjah earlier this year.

Al-Jabri and Al-Suwaidi finished the first three of the opening day's seven timed special stages in unofficial 22nd and 23rd positions from 32 starters, although Al-Shamsi was delayed with an engine oil leak in the third stage.

A five-man 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. Each driver will take turns to tackle the remaining rounds of the regional series and select British events.

"The goal of the project is to nurture young Abu Dhabi rallying talent, with a view to one or two drivers graduating to the world stage in the near future," admitted Abu Dhabi's WRC star driver Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi. "The young drivers are all involved in a learning process. That is not just a case of turning up and doing rallies. They need to learn about testing, carrying out the recce, working with pace notes and other important factors like car control, their personal attitude to the role and general discipline.

"We are limited by the number of events that they are able to enter in the early phase of the programme, but the plan is to enter Lebanon after Syria and then look at taking two of the drivers to the UK for up to three rallies." The Swansea Bay Stages, McRae Stages and the Milton Stages rallies have been muted as the three proposed events for the Abu Dhabi Junior Rally Team in the UK.

Al-Qassimi admits that the long-term goal extends far beyond learning about the sport in the regional series. "The objective of the ADTA and the Abu Dhabi Junior Rally Team programme is to highlight the opportunities available to our Juniors and to identify one or two candidates who can go on to bigger things, be it an international one-make series, the J-WRC or even a WRC programme in the future. This is an ongoing project that we hope will go from strength to strength in the coming months."

Al-Jabri and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr were the first pair to complete an international stage for the Junior Team. But Al-Shamsi and Australian co-driver Dale Moscatt set the early pace in the opening stage, where Al-Suwaidi suffered a puncture.

The three drivers were closely matched on the opening loop of three specials, but Al-Shamsi suffered a troublesome oil leak from the engine on the Baida stage and was involved in a fight against time to reach service. After three stages Al-Jabri headed 22-year-old Al-Suwaidi and his Ulster co-driver Allan Harryman by just 1.2 seconds.

 "The Ford Fiestas are quite a competitive package," insists the team's Australian technical director Ron Cremen. "They are Group N cars, but are fitted with powerful two-litre engines, Reiger suspension, limited slip differentials and run with dog gearboxes."
Tomorrow (Saturday) the Abu Dhabi Junior Team members will tackle a further six special stages, starting with a run through the 20.5km eighth stage at 9.38hrs. Two more specials follow before service at Dair Ateyah, including a run through the Nabk stage. The second run through Nabk is the final special of the event at 15.11hrs and is followed by the ceremonial finish in front of the Sheraton in Sednaya from 16.48hrs.


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153 E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
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Date issued: 06/06/2008

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