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Qatar star wins Dubai Rally in style for Subaru

Dubai International Rally
2003 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 6 of 6
December 4-5th, 2003

AL-ATTIYAH WINS DUBAI RALLY TO CLAIM
FIA MIDDLE EAST TITLE FOR SUBARU

UAE's Abdullah Al-Qassimi wins Group N title;
Accidents hospitalise Khaled Al-Qassimi and Mohammed Hamsho

DUBAI (UAE): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah clinched the overall FIA Middle East rally championship title by crossing the start line of the two-day Dubai International Rally, but he needed to win to clinch the Manufacturers' series for Subaru. He and British co-driver Steve Lancaster were never troubled on their way to an emphatic victory by a margin of 9m 32s.

~It feels fantastic to win here,~ said Nasser. ~I have won six rallies this season and the regional championship. Now I must look ahead to the Dakar and then to defending my title in 2004 when the series reverts to Group N.~

Sharjah's Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi clinched his fourth FIA Middle East Group N rally championship title in six years by finishing second overall in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7.

His nearest rival for the Group N title was Qatar's Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6. The Qatari needed to win and hope that Al-Qassimi finished outside the top six, but his turbo began smoking in the eighth stage and Al-Kuwari's challenge ended with engine failure on a road section.

Veteran Michel Saleh completed the podium placings in his ageing Toyota Celica GT4, which will be outlawed by rule changes from the start of next season.

Cypriot Andreas Tsouloftas lost his chance of taking second place in the championship, when he was forced to retire his Group A Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, when an oil cooler pipe fractured and the car began leaking oil.

The event attracted 36 starters from an original entry of 39, but only 19 cars reached the finish after 16 special stages in a total route of 698.67kms, of which 275.66 kms were competitive.

The first retirement was Sheikh Khaled Al-Qassimi in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6. Last year's Group N regional champion launched his new car into a high-speed roll over a deceptive sand ridge. Both he and Khaled Al-Kendi were airlifted to hospital for precautionary checks and later released, but the car was destroyed in the incident.

Senior Syrian politician Mohammed Hamsho drove a Ford Focus WRC, hired from Zlin Engineering in the Czech Republic, but crashed at high speed into a wadi and wrecked the car. The resultant blow put he and co-driver Adel Hussain in hospital with minor injuries.

The 2004 FIA Middle East rally championship gets underway with the Abu Dhabi-based UAE International Rally at the end of January 2004. New regulations mean that this was the last ever event in the Middle East where World Rally Cars and Group A8 machines could score points. The 2004 series will be open only to Group N cars and Group A5, A6 and A7 machines.

Dubai International Rally (final positions after SS16):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRC 2h 09m 47s
2. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Gaby Khoury (UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 2h 19m 19s
3. Michel Saleh (RL)/Malek Hariri (RL) Toyota Celica GT4 2h 22m 54s 4. Mohammed Youssfi (SYR)/Abdulrahman Al-Hajri (QA) Subaru Impreza STi 2h 33m 06s
5. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Imad Juma (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 2h 34m 22s
6. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 2h 34m 32s
7. Menelaos Melissas (CY)/Shialos Panayotis (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 2h 36m 46s
8. Sadiq Fazal (UAE)/Imad Nabahan (UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7 2h 38m 00s
9. Amir Arnaout (SYR)/Youssef Alasmar (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 2h 42m 01s
10. Wayne Boshier (UAE)/Andrew Robinson (UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 2h 43m 26s

Overall drivers' positions after round 6 of 6
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 46*
2. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 30
3. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY) 26
4. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA) 10 pts, etc
*denotes 2003 champion

Group N positions after round 5 of 6
1. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 38*
2. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA) 20
3. Sheikh Khaled Al-Qassimi (UAE) 16
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 12, etc
*denotes Group N Champion

Manufacturers
1. Subaru 58*
2. Mitsubishi 49
*denotes champions

FIA Super 1600 Cup
1. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KT) 36*
2. Ziad Karanouh (RL) 22
3. Ramez Al-Farra (SYR) 10
3. Asem Aref (HKJ) 10
*denotes 2003 champion

Ends

Date issued: 05/12/2003

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