MERC Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah leads after leg one in Kuwait

FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round two

For immediate release
Friday, March 6th, 2009


·Saudi's Al-Rajhi snatches second overall; UAE's Al-Ketbi loses third to Al-Marri
·Broken wheel costs UAE's Al-Qassimi valuable time; Kuwait's Al-Thafiri on form

JAHRA (Kuwait): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and his new Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini held an unofficial 1m 30s lead after the first seven special stages of the Kuwait International Rally on Friday. The Subaru driver was impressed with the accuracy of his new co-driver's pace note reading and was fastest on each of the morning's desert stages.

"It's nice to be back with my old team," said Al-Attiyah, who is bidding for a 31st regional rally victory. "Giovanni did a great job today. He is very accurate on the notes. I am very happy."

Yazeed Al-Rajhi and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel held second overall in their Peugeot 207 S2000, despite an oil leak and a potential drive shaft problem on the first loop. The Saudi finished the leg unofficially 35 seconds in front of Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson.

The UAE team of Rashid Al-Ketbi and Khaled Al-Kendi complained of soft suspension settings for the first stage of the morning and held third at the day's mid-point, but slipped to fourth when they collected a puncture at the start of the seventh desert stage.

Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr had set the second fastest time on the first of the morning's desert stages, but a wheel split after a hard landing in the third stage and the pair lost four minutes changing the troublesome rim. The delay dropped them well out of the top 10, although they did manage to climb back into contention for the top 10 over the closing three stages. "It was one of those unfortunate incidents that cost us a lot of time because we couldn't get the wheel off cleanly," groaned Orr.

Kuwait's Meshari Al-Thafiri was an excellent fifth overall and leading local driver, but there was a frantic tussle for sixth overall with a handful of seconds separating Kuwait's Meshal Al-Nejadi, Lebanon's Michel Saleh and Qatar's Khalid Al-Suwaidi and Mubarak Al-Hajri.

Al-Suwaidi suffered differential problems near the end of the loop and Saleh was reportedly delayed leaving service soon after. By the end of the leg, Al-Hajri had sneaked into sixth overall, with Al-Suwaidi, Al-Nejadi, Saleh and Mufeed Mubarak in close contention. "We almost rolled two or three times," admitted sixth-placed Al-Hajri. "The suspension was too soft and we kept bottoming out on the bumpy sections of the stages."

The first loop claimed several cars: the UAE's Khalil Al-Shaikh suffered battery problems, Kuwait's Saleh bin Eidan damaged his engine after a hard landing on the last stage of the loop and neither Jordan's Amjad Farrah nor London-based Lebanese driver Nick Georgiou managed to reach service on time. Farrah was sidelined with oil cooler damage after a heavy landing and Georgiou broke a suspension arm.

Kuwait's Eid Falah and Qatar's Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari were also sidelined with mechanical problems and Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al-Sabban was forced to change a drive shaft at the lunchtime service point, but was out of contention by the time teams arrived back at the shooting club.

The event is based at the Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Olympic Shooting Complex in Jahra, near Kuwait City, and is being held under the patronage of Faisal Al-Jazaf, chairman and general manager of the public authority for youth and sports in the State of Kuwait.

Tomorrow's (Friday) second leg offers a further seven special stages and starts from the Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Olympic Shooting Complex in Jahra at 8am. Surviving teams will face their first passes through the Sulibikhat and Al-Metlaa specials from 9am and then a third pass through the Alatraff stage at 10.22hrs, which retains much of the stage distance used for the candidate event in 2008. The Sulibikhat and Al-Metlaa stages are also similar to 2008.

A final regrouping and lunchtime service at the shooting club precedes a repeat of the morning's three specials and the competitive action reaches a conclusion with a second sprint through the spectator stage at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Circuit from 4.15pm. The ceremonial finish will take place under the Kuwait Towers from 5.30pm.

Competitors' progress can be followed via live tracking over the course of the three days of competitive action using the following website: http://tracking.sporttraxx.com/races/kuwait-2009/

Positions after SS7 (unofficial @ 15.45 hrs):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I) Subaru Impreza   1h 02m 07s
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Peugeot 207 S2000   1h 03m 37s
3. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza    1h 04m 02s
4. Rashed Al-Ketbi (UAE)/Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) Subaru Impreza   1h 04m 56s
5. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT)/Fares Al-Thafiri (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX   1h 06m 18s
6. Mubarak Al-Hajri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Subaru Impreza    1h 06m 27s
7. Khalid Al-Suwaidi/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QA) Subaru Impreza    1h 06m 36s
8. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KT)/Ahmad Al-Khrass (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX  1h 06m 49s
9. Michel Saleh (RL)/Nabil Njeim (RL) Subaru Impreza     1h 07m 12s
10. Mufeed Mubarak (KT)/Saad Al-Melaifi (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution   1h 07m 13s

Note: All above times exclude any late time penalties imposed by event officials.


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, International Media Liaison Officer, 2009 Kuwait International Rally, NDP Publicity Services, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com, www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)



Date issued: 06/03/2009

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