MERC Al Attiyah wins 150th round of the regional series in Kuwait
KUWAIT INTERNATIONAL RALLY, March 5th-7th 2009
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round two
For immediate release
Saturday, March 7th, 2009
AL-ATTIYAH CLINCHES VICTORY IN KUWAIT AND
150TH WIN IN HISTORY OF REGIONAL RALLY SERIES
·Qatar's Al-Marri snatches second place; Saudi's Al-Rajhi stops
·UAE's Al-Qassimi climbs from 12th to third; four Kuwaitis in top 10
JAHRA (Kuwait): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and his new Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini clinched a start-to-finish victory in the Kuwait International Rally on Saturday. Al-Attiyah duly celebrated his 31st regional rally victory - on the 150th event in the 26-year history of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship - and Bernacchini won his second championship rally in two years.
The defending champion made a successful return to driving a Subaru Impreza, after winning January's Qatar International Rally in a Mitsubishi Evolution X, and now holds a six-point lead in the seven-round series. "It was not an easy rally at all," admitted Al-Attiyah, who is bidding for a sixth regional title in seven years.
"The terrain is very flat and it is difficult to judge the speeds and the small bumps in the tracks. Giovanni made a big difference for me. He is also about 30kgs lighter than some co-drivers, so this is also a great help in a Group N car, where everyone has similar power."
Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson secured the runner-up position over the final loop of desert stages, when the hard-chasing Saudi Arabian driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel stopped with mechanical problems on the penultimate stage.
Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr began the day in 12th, although the UAE driver was 48 seconds off a top 10 placing and determined to climb up the leader board. He set the fastest time in SS9 and edged into 11th position, but soon found himself well up the leader board in fourth overall as the remainder of the field feel by the wayside. Al-Rajhi's late demise promoted the 2004 champion to third place, although he survived a late scare when a valve pipe leaked a little oil on the 12th stage and there was a resultant small fire.
"We thought that fourth was possible by the end of the day," admitted a delighted Sheikh Khalid. "But it was a pleasant surprise to have gained those places so early in the leg. It's a case of what might have been had we not had broken a wheel early in the rally. We could have been pushing for the win…"
The UAE's Rashid Al-Ketbi and Khaled Al-Kendi set the second fastest times on the eighth and ninth special stages on Saturday morning, but succumbed to radiator problems after a landing in a ditch in the 10th test and lost fourth position.
As Al-Attiyah began to ease his pace slightly, a fierce battle developed between Al-Marri and Al-Rajhi for second overall during the day. The Qatari gained 30 seconds in the eighth stage, when the Saudi collected a puncture, and the fastest time in the 10th special ensured that he reached service with a 34-second advantage over last year's winner. But the Saudi rode his luck once too often and failed to reach the finish.
Kuwait's Meshari Al-Thafiri suffered intercooler problems for two stages and slipped behind fellow countryman Mufeed Mubarak and into seventh position. Qatar's Mubarak Al-Hajri - the winner of a recent national rally in Qatar - edged into fifth position heading into the final loop of stages, while Kuwait's Meshal Al-Nejadi and Ebrahim Almodahka and Qatar's Jaber Al-Marri completed the top 10.
The final loop of three stages and the closing super special at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Circuit devastated the running order. Mubarak secured fourth overall and the honour of leading Kuwaiti driver, with Meshal Al-Nejadi and Meshari Al-Thafiri filling fifth and sixth positions. Al-Hajri rolled on a slow corner in the 11th stage after clipping a ridge of sand and flipped the car on to its roof. He had been in sight of the podium.
Lebanon's Michel Saleh succumbed to fuel-related torment on the first loop and both Qatar's Khalid Al-Suwaidi and Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani rolled out of contention, Al-Suwaidi's accident recorded at 180km/h by the event's vital tracking system.
Jordan's Amjad Farrah restarted under SupeRally regulations, but his return to form was short-lived and boost problems claimed his Mitsubishi. Fellow countryman Ammar Hijazi fell foul of power steering woes and lost 15th position, while Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al-Sabban suffered coil problems and dropped out of 17th overall. Enraged Kuwaiti driver Essam Al-Nejadi was running well until he rolled his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX over a crest in the ninth stage.
The event was based at the Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Olympic Shooting Complex, near Kuwait City, and was 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.
Positions after SS14 (unofficial @ 16.55 hrs):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I) Subaru Impreza 2h 18m 25s
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza 2h 20m 43s
3. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Subaru Impreza 2h 24m 06s
4. Mufeed Mubarak (KT)/Saad Al-Melaifi (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 2h 27m 39s
5. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KT)/Ahmad Al-Khrass (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 2h 28m 36s
6. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT)/Fares Al-Thafiri (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 2h 35m 03s, etc
Note: All above times exclude any late time penalties imposed by event officials.
Full results are available on www.q8racing.com (results)
2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship - positions after round 2 of 7 (unofficial):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 20 pts
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 13 pts
3. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 12 pts
4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA) 8 pts
5. Mufeed Mubarak (KT) 5 pts
6. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KT) 4 pts
6. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE) 4 pts, etc
1. Michael Orr (GB) 16 pts
1. Chris Patterson (GB) 16 pts
3. Matthieu Baumel (F) 10 pts
4. Ahmad Al-Khrass (KT) 9 pts
5. Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE) 5 pts
6. Steve Lancaster (GB) 4 pts
7. Anwar Al-Sharrah (KT) 2 pts
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)