Strong international lineup for Paphos International Rally

The FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) moves to Cyprus next week and the organisers have confirmed an impressive line-up of international talent for the inaugural Paphos International Rally.

Round 4 of the Middle East Rally Championship

Taking place from Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd July, the Paphos International Rally is round 4 of the 2011 MERC calendar and will see the region’s top drivers battling for victory on the island’s legendary special stages.

After three rounds of the Championship (Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan have already hosted events), just a single point separates current frontrunner Sheik Abdullah Al Qassimi of the UAE (51 points) and second-placed Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar (50 points).

With a spectacular run of eight victories at Cyprus MERC events, Al-Attiyah enters the event on confident form, but he’ll face tough competition from a strong field of local and regional talent.

Kuwait

Kuwait will be especially well represented at the Paphos event, with no fewer than four crews travelling to Cyprus.

Essam Al Najadi currently shares 4th place in the championship with fellow Kuwaiti Mufeed Mubarak. Al Nejadi and co-driver Amwaar Al Shaara will field a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII, while Mubarak and his co-driver Saad Al Melaifi will compete in an Evo X. Al Nejadi’s brother, Mishaal, will also be competing, alongside Jerry Mohd in an Evo IX. Mishaal Al Nejadi currently sits 10th on the leaderboard.

Rounding off the Kuwaiti contingent will be Mshari Al-Thefiri (currently 12th), who will tackle the Cyprus stages alongside Mobarak Al-Thefiri in their Evo X.

Qatar

Al-Attiyah, seated alongside Italy’s Giovanni Bernacchini in a Ford Fiesta S2000, will be the only Qatari driver taking to the start ramp, but is sure to push hard for the win.

United Arab Emirates

Al Qassimi won’t make it easy for him, though, and is sure to be keen to extend his championship lead in his own S2000 Fiesta, with British co-driver Steve Lancaster.

The other UAE driver tackling the event is Rashid Al Ketbi, who currently sits third on the leaderboard in his Skoda Fabia S2000. His co-driver is Khalid Al Kendi, also from the UAE.

Lebanon

Lebanon will be represented by two drivers – 9th placed Michel Saleh in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX (with Cypriot co-driver Andreas Gregoriou), and promising young driver Nicolas Amiouni, also in an Evo IX, who will be partnered by his fellow countryman Joseph Matar.

Cyprus

With the exception of Ukraine’s Volodymyr Pechenyk in an Evo X, the remainder of the field will be made up by a strong Cypriot contingent. Local names to watch for will include Constantinos Tingirides and Panayiotis Shialos in their Evo IX  and Doros Loucaides and Stelios Elia in their Evo IX.

The rally

The Paphos International Rally succeeds the Troodos Rally of previous years and will get underway with a lively Ceremonial Start on Friday 1 July in the evening at 19:30 by Paphos’ medieval fort.

The Paphos International Rally will be centered around the lively coastal resort’s attractive harbour, with the Service Park and HQ close by.

Saturday and Sunday will see crews cover a total of 732.94km, 252.2km of which will be Special Stages. The rally will finish at 17:51 on Sunday, followed by a prize giving ceremony later that evening.

2011 Cyprus Rally

2011 will see Cyprus host two major international rallying events. Attracting entrants from across the globe, the Cyprus Rally is one of the best known rallies on the international stage and the 2011 event will take place between the 3rd and 5th November. It will serve as the 12th – and final – round of the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) calendar.

Sponsored by CYTA, the 2011 Paphos International Rally is organised by the Cyprus Automobile Association (CAA).

2011 MERC Standings Ahead of 2011 Paphos International Rally

Position

Drivers

Qatar

Kuwait

Jordan

Points

1

Shk Abdulla Al Qassimi

18

15

18

51

2

Nasser Al Attiyah

25

25

0

50

3

Rashid Al Ketbi

0

18

25

43

4

Mufeed Mubarak

0

12

15

27

=

Essam Al Nejadi

15

4

8

27

6

Ammar Hijazi

12

8

0

20

=

Mazen Tantash

0

10

10

20

8

Nancy Al Majali

10

0

4

14

9

Michel Saleh

0

1

12

13

10

Meshal Al Nejadi

0

6

6

12

11

Fahad Ashknani

8

0

0

8

12

Mshari Al Thefiri

0

2

0

2

Want to be there?

There's still time to plan your weekend break watching the Paphos International Rally as the cars storm the mountain tracks of Paphos Forest.  Find out how.

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