MERC: Al-Attiyah Lebanon rally preview

The Qatar Asia Games Rally Team of Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Doha) and English co-driver Steve Lancaster (Selby, Yorkshire) head to the tarmac roads of Lebanon on July 4/5/6, as they continue their bid to claim the 2003 FIA Middle East Rally ...

The Qatar Asia Games Rally Team of Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Doha) and English co-driver Steve Lancaster (Selby, Yorkshire) head to the tarmac roads of Lebanon on July 4/5/6, as they continue their bid to claim the 2003 FIA Middle East Rally Championship title.

Supported by the 2006 Asia Games being held in Doha, Qatar, and the Qatar National Bank, Al-Attiyah and Lancaster dominated the opening round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship on Nasser's home event The Qatar International Rally. Winning by over six minutes in the Autotek Motorsport run Subaru Impreza World Rally Car, the pair were involved with a battle with Abdullah Bakhashab's Peugeot 206 WRC until he retired with engine failure.

Running on the latest factory Pirelli competition tyres, Al-Attiyah will return from a Skeet Shooting competition in Spain in order to contest the Rally of Lebanon. The Qatari man ranks 7th in the world and is also the number one ranked skeet shooter in Asia, having won two gold medals at previous Asia Games. With appearances at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics also under his belt, Nasser is looking forward to continuing his exciting dual sporting life on the tarmac stages near Beirut.

"I am not so used to tarmac stages" admitted the former five times Qatari National Rally Champion. "Looking at the entry list for Lebanon, it is clear that the Feghali brothers, Roger and Abdo, will be very difficult to beat. However, the pressure is not on Steve or myself I feel. The most important thing is to collect as many points as we can for the championship. The next round of the series in Jordan takes place in the desert, where I am very confident that we can chase for the lead once again".

Al-Attiyah dominated the opening Qatar International Rally in the ex-Tommi Makinen Subaru Impreza WRC. Having contested the Rally of Lebanon only once before, and lasting just one stage in the process, the 32 year old Qatar Motor Federation backed driver will be looking to the advice of his vastly experienced co-driver for this rare tarmac outing. Lancaster, a co-driving professional with 20 years experience of the sport from club to World Rally Championship level, is looking forward to the challenge ahead:

"Nasser is very limited with his tarmac experience" said the Selby man. "The 2002 specification Subaru is a really strong performer and that should keep us in contention on the event. Abdullah Bakhashab will be under pressure to do well on the rally after his no score in Qatar, and he will have to fight very hard to beat the Feghali brothers on their home rally. Nasser is at his very best on gravel, so a decent points scoring finish in Lebanon will set us up nicely for a return to the desert stages in Jordan later in the month."

The Rally of Lebanon gets underway at 6pm on Friday July 4th, with crews heading straight for the 'Super Special' stage in Beirut. Re-starting at 7am on the Saturday morning, the crews face 130 kilometres of challenging tarmac stages near the town of Jounieh, before returning to the overnight halt at 8:30pm. An early Sunday morning start sees the teams tackle another 150 kilometres of stages before a final super special stage in Beirut and the rally finish at 7pm.

Leading Entrants, 2003 Marlboro Rally of Lebanon:
1 Roger Feghali/Ziad Chehab - Subaru Impreza WRC.
2 Abdullah Bakhashab/Bobby Willis - Peugeot 206 WRC.
3 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Steve Lancaster - Subaru Impreza WRC.
4 Abdo Feghali/Joseph Matar - Toyota Corolla WRC.
5 Michel Saleh/Ahmad Ghaziri - Toyota Celica GT-4.

-qagrt-

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Roger Feghali , Bobby Willis , Nasser Al-Attiyah , Joseph Matar , Michel Saleh , Ziad Chehab , Ahmad Ghaziri