MERC Seventh successive Qatar Rally win for Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah

2009 NBK Qatar International Rally
2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1

For immediate release
Saturday, January 24th 2008


·Sweden's Tina Thörner becomes first woman in history to win MERC event
·Second overall for Al-Rajhi's new Peugeot S2000; UAE's Khalid Al-Qassimi slips to third

DOHA (Qatar): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah claimed his seventh successive victory in the NBK Qatar International Rally and the success meant that his Swedish co-driver Tina Thörner entered the history books by becoming the first woman ever to win a round of the prestigious FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

Al-Attiyah won the first seven of the 14 desert special stages in an Austrian-built Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X and finished 2m 28.5s clear of Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rajhi and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel. The event was centred around a challenging desert route to the north of Doha and finished at the Losail International Circuit on Saturday afternoon.

"I made my lead on the first day and took no risks at all today," admitted Al-Attiyah. "The car was fantastic, easy to drive and very stable. This is a great result for me and, of course, for Tina. She has made her own little bit of history today and I have got the new season off to a great start in the Middle East after the disappointment of losing my lead in the Dakar Rally earlier this month."

Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and co-driver Michael Orr held second place until the start of the final stage, but sustained a costly puncture and Al-Rajhi and Baumel - who set three fastest stage times in a new Kronos Peugeot 207 S2000 - climbed to a fine second overall. Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri finished fourth overall when Lebanon's Nick Georgiou ground to a halt within sight of the finish and lost a possible podium place with two punctures and a broken suspension arm.

"On behalf of the QMMF, I would like to thank all the competitors for making this event such an exciting spectacle this weekend," enthused Nasser Khalifa Al-Attityah, President of the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF). "I would also like to thank the NBK Group, our other vital sponsors and the various Qatar ministries for their invaluable support."

Twenty-three of the original 29 cars started leg two's eight special stages, which included two runs through the Losail stage and new specials around Al-Khor in the north of Qatar. Qatar's Hamed Al-Suwaidi withdrew before the start, differential problems proved too much for Khalifa Khalifa Al-Attiyah, Britain's David Scialom was sidelined with drive shaft woes, Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani suffered transmission torment and Faisal Al-Attiyah sustained a damaged engine.

Al-Attiyah was in stunning form through the 14.80km of the seventh stage and extended his overall advantage to 3m34s, as Al-Marri moved ahead of Khalid Al-Qassimi and into second overall, when the UAE driver suffered a flat tyre. Khaled Al-Suwaidi lost over a minute, but Al-Rajhi was on form and set the third fastest time in his new Peugeot.

Al-Qassimi set his first fastest time in the NBK-backed eighth stage and reduced Al-Marri's hold on second place to just 11.8 seconds. The 2004 regional champion was again the quickest in the Al-Khor stage and moved to within 2.7 seconds of Al-Marri, as Al-Attiyah eased his pace and retained a comfortable lead.  Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah damaged his fourth rear suspension arm of the rally and collected two punctures.

Al-Qassimi was in flying form on the first reverse run through the Losail stage and surged into second position. He also reduced Al-Attiyah's overall lead to 1m 46s.  Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah dropped five minutes with further punctures and this enabled Nick Georgiou to move up the leader board to fifth, the London-based Lebanese driver's case helped still further when the UAE's Rashid Al-Ketbi arrived late at a control and was awarded 90 seconds of road penalties.

Al-Rajhi set the first fastest time for an S2000 car in the Middle East region with a run of 15m 16.8s through Losail to slip ahead of Al-Marri and into third place. Saleh's woes continued: the Lebanese wrecked the rear suspension and continued his fall from grace.

Al-Attiyah bounced back with the fastest time in SS11 to extend his lead to 1m 51.5s, with Al-Rajhi maintaining his superb form to record the second fastest time and climb to within 42.8 seconds of second place. Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah rolled his battle-weary Subaru Impreza out of contention on the stage and  Kuwait's Meshari Al-Sabti shed a rear tyre and retired.

Al-Rajhi was again the fastest driver in the 12th stage and reduced Al-Qassimi's grip on second place to just 33.5 seconds to set up a thrilling final two stages. Al-Marri slipped behind Al-Ketbi into fifth place and faced a late challenge from Georgiou for his top five position.

Sensing a possible threat for his second place, Al-Qassimi pushed a little harder in the 13th stage and was pipped by Al-Attiyah by a mere 0.7seconds, as the Qatari took a 1m 51.1s lead into the final Losail test. Al-Rajhi was again fastest in the Peugeot to confirm the final podium place, but Al-Marri's grip on fourth was failed and he headed into the rocky final 28.3km of Losail, 3.7 seconds behind Georgiou.

A good run through the final 28.3km of Losail was crucial for the leading crews and Al-Attiyah set the fastest time and crossed the line without problems to record his seventh successive home rally win and get the defence of his fifth title in the last six years off to the best possible start. Al-Qassimi punctured and lost second place to Al-Rajhi and there was misery for Georgiou.

Positions at end of leg 2 (SS14) - unofficial @ 16.00hrs
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Tina Thörner (S) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X 2h 26m 30.5s
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Peugeot 207 S2000  2h 28m 59.0s
3. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Subaru Impreza N14  2h 30m 51.7s
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza N14   2h 31m 07.5s
5. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE) Subaru Impreza   2h 31m 12.1s
6. Salah Bin Eidan (KT)/Dermot O'Gorman (IRL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi  2h 34m 02.3s
7. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza N14 2h 34m 21.0s
8. Mubarak Al-Hajri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Subaru Impreza   2h 40m 23.0s
9. Nasser Al-Suwaidi (QA)/Ramzi Al-Mansoor (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 2h 41m 21.6s
10. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KT)/Ahmad Al-Khrass (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 2h 49m 49.8s

2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship - positions after round 1 of 7:
1.Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)  10 pts
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)  8 pts
3. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)  6 pts
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)  5 pts
5. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)  4 pts
6. Mubarak Al-Hajri (QA)  3 pts
7. Nasser Al-Suwaidi (QA)  2 pts
8. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KT)  1 pt

1. Matthieu Baumel (F)  10 pts
2. Michael Orr (GB)   8 pts
3. Chris Patterson (GB)  6 pts
4. Steve Lancaster (GB)  5 pts
5. Adel Hussein (QA)   4 pts
6. Ahmad Al-Khrass (KT)  3 pts

Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, Chief Press Officer, 2009 NBK Qatar International Rally, Losail International Circuit, Media Centre, Doha, Qatar, Tel: + 974 4728623, Fax: + 974 4728653, Qatar mobile: + 974 3219417, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com  www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)


Date issued: 24/01/2009

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