2003 MIDDLE EAST RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

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26 July 2003
2003 FIA Middle East Rally Championship / Round 3
International Jordan Rally

SECOND OVERALL AND GROUP N CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD FOR MITSUBISHI DRIVER AL-QASSIMI

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Andreas TSOULOFTAS / Sawas LAOS
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi finished the Jordan International Rally in third position today, claiming the lead in the Group N category and second overall in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship. The UAE driver coasted to the finish in Amman today and is just three points adrift of overall Championship leader and rally winner Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and in a strong position to retain his showroom category title after three of the six rounds.


Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Abdullah AL-QASSIMI / Gaby KHOURY
(July 2003)
The Royal Automobile Club of Jordan celebrated its 50th anniversary this year and the revamped event offered a selection of fast stages in the Jordan desert, south of Amman and tricky mountainous gravel stages near Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea. A switch of date from May to July added to the challenge, and the intense heat took its toll on many of the crews. In fact, only 21 of the original 42 crews completed the 20 special stages which covered 257 competitive kilometers in a total distance of 1,053 kilometers.

The action kicked off on Thursday evening with a short sharp blast around a 2.27 kilometer super special stage at the Amman International Fair, where spectators witnessed drivers from 10 nations powering their machinery at high speed right on their doorstep. Jordanian driver Marouf Abu Samra led the Mitsubishi crews and finished third in the opening crowd-pleaser, however the local man’s luck ran out on Friday when he dropped three minutes with broken suspension and then ultimately rolled in stage seven. It was a huge disappointment for the Jordanian who was bidding to become the first local driver to win the event in 21 years.


Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N
Hamad AL-SOWAIDI / Michael MORRISSEY
(July 2003)
While Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi finished third and more importantly holds fine Championship positions, the leading Mitsubishi driver arriving back in Amman was Andreas Tsouloftas, who finished second overall. The Cypriot clawed his way up the leaderboard from sixth after the super special and, even though he benefited from Abu Samra’s retirement, moved into second position on Friday, the position he retained during the final leg on Saturday.

"Second place is okay for me", said the multiple Cyprus National Rally Champion, who kicked off his Championship campaign in Jordan. "Now I must attack in Syria and make sure that I win my home rally in Cyprus in November. I enjoyed the stages on Saturday; they suited my driving style and were similar to those in the Troodos Mountains at home".

Fourth position was claimed by Hamed Al-Sowaidi, another Lancer Evolution driver who held the Group N lead during Friday’s leg until dropping more than nine minutes when he had to stop and change a wheel. The Qatari nevertheless holds second position in the Group N championship, eight points adrift of Al-Qassimi. Fifth and sixth positions were also claimed by Mitsubishi drivers. Faris Bustami, a former national champion, lost out to fourth position when he was forced to stop for over a minute with an electrical problem in the final stage, but nevertheless finished as the leading Jordanian driver in fifth.


Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Faris BUSTAMI / Ata AL-HAMOUD
(July 2003)

--> "I had a problem with the differential on Friday, but it is great to finish as the top Jordanian driver", said Faris. "I missed the Rally of Lebanon to prepare for this and it has all been worthwhile, but the last stage problem was so frustrating".

Misfer Al-Marri took sixth position in similar machinery.

Leading retirements in this year’s event included Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Bakhashab, who was forced onto the sidelines on Friday with transmission problems in his Peugeot 206 WRC. Jordan’s Nasser Khanfar retired his Mitsubishi in stage two when he encountered engine problems, and Sheikh Khaled Al-Qassimi damaged this Lancer’s oil cooler on a boulder. "I was going so well", said Sheikh Khaled. "I had a good lead in Group N and was pushing very hard. Then I hit a rock and it smashed the bottom of the engine and wrecked the oil cooler. That was it. I am very disappointed".

The FIA Middle East Rally Championship resumes in Syria on September 10-12.

FINAL OVERALL CLASSIFICATION

  Driver / Co-driver Nat. Car Total Time Difference
 Nasser AL-ATTIYA / Steve LANCASTER QA/GB  Subaru Impreza WRC 2.51.10.8   
 Andreas TSOULOFTAS / Sawas LAOS CY  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 3.01.38.0  + 10.27.2 
 Abdullah AL-QASSIMI / Gaby KHOURY UAE  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (1st Gr.N) 3.07.20.0  + 16.09.2 
 Hamad AL-SOWAIDI / Michael MORRISSEY QA/IRL  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (2nd Gr.N) 3.13.59.8  + 22.49.0 
 Faris BUSTAMI / Ata AL-HAMOUD HKJ/HKJ  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 3.14.08.7  + 22.57.9 
 Misfer AL-MARRI / Adel HUSSEIN QA/QA  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (3rd Gr.N) 3.17.24.9  + 26.14.1 
 Abdallah AL-KAWARI / Abdallah AL-HAJIRI QA/QA  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (4th Gr.N) 3.25.57.0  + 34.46.2 
 Mohammad AL-SARRAF / Waleed AL-SARRAF KT/KT  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (5th Gr.N) 3.27.16.5  + 36.05.7 
 Ebrahim AL-BUSMAIT BAH  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (6th Gr.N) 3.34.48.6  + 43.37.8 
10   Farouk GHURAB / Hamoud AL-JABIRI SA/OM  Subaru Impreza WRC (7th Gr.N) 3.39.22.3  + 48.11.5 
11   Mohammed HAMSHO / Allan HARRYMAN SYR/GB  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 3.50.30.8  + 59.20.0 
12   Haitham AL-YOUSFY SYR  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (8th Gr.N) 3.56.56.2  + 1.05.45.4 
13   Bashar ABU QOURA SYR  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (9th Gr.N) 4.03.55.8  + 1.12.45.0 
Nationalities: BAH=Bahrain / CY=Cyprus / GB=Great Britain / HKJ=Jordan / IRL=Ireland / KT=Kuwait / OM=Oman / QA=Qatar / RL=Lebanon / SA=Saudi Arabia / SYR=Syria / UAE=United Arab Emirates /

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