MERC Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah slithers into day one lead in Jordan
2009 Jordan Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 6 of 7
For immediate release
Friday, October 30th, 2009
QATAR’S NASSER AL-ATTIYAH SLITHERS INTO
COMFORTABLE DAY ONE LEAD IN JORDAN RALLY
· Lebanon’s Feghali holds second; Georgiou in third place
· Saudi’s Al-Rajhi sees title dream shattered at the Dead Sea
· Jordan’s Bustami, Muhawesh, Mihyar and Al-Bast all retire
DEAD SEA (Jordan): Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini had built up a 1m 19.2s lead after day one of the 2009 Jordan Rally, the penultimate round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, on Friday.
The defending champion is chasing his sixth regional title in seven years and won six of the day’s eight gravel stages in the Dead Sea area of the Hashemite Kingdom, where a torrential lunchtime downpour made road conditions difficult in the afternoon and forced the cancellation of the ninth timed test. Lebanon’s Roger Feghali was the Subaru driver’s closest challenger in his Mitsubishi and ended the day trailing the Qatari in second position.
“I took it easy for the first few stages this morning, but really pushed in stage seven when it was raining hard and the surface was muddy and slippery,” said Al-Attiyah. “I managed to gain a lot of time. We changed the set-up on the car for the last two stages of the day to give me better traction, but I was happy with the way everything went. There’s still a lot to do, but I am in a very good position.”
Lebanon’s Nick Georgiou holds third in his Mitsubishi Lancer and Al-Attiyah’s main championship rival, Misfer Al-Marri, holds fourth overall, although the remainder of the field was decimated by the gruelling special stages and adverse weather conditions.
The story of the day
Al-Attiyah was in stunning form from the outset and edged into a 2.7s advantage over Feghali. The pair were in a class of their own through Yakrut, with Georgiou and Farrah slotting into distant third and fourth places. The all-female Jordanian crew of Abir Batikhi and Lama Al-Hattab failed a second scrutineering check on Friday morning and were refused a start in their Subaru Impreza WRX.
Al-Attiyah extended his lead to 9.9s through Rawda and moved 54s ahead of third-placed Georgiou. Al-Marri climbed above Farrah into fourth and Al-Rajhi upped his pace to close to within 2.1s of the leading Jordanian heading to Seham. Jordan’s Ibrahim Muhawesh rolled out of the event at the flying finish of the Rawda stage.
Feghali clawed a couple of seconds back through Seham, but the flying Qatari redressed the balance on the Baptism Site stage at the foot of the Jordan Valley and headed into service with a 18.6s overall lead. Georgiou held third and Al-Attiyah’s championship rivals, Al-Marri and Al-Rajhi, were fourth and fifth. The rate of attrition was high further down the field, with Qatar’s Khalid Al-Suwaidi, Egypt’s Hassan Ali Abdel Baset and Jordan’s Ahmed Mihyar joining the growing list of retirements.
Feghali was 11s quicker through the re-run of Yakrut than he had been earlier in the day and reduced Al-Attiyah’s lead to just 10.9s, but Al-Rajhi dropped a minute to the leaders and slipped to sixth place and Farrah struggled with reported overheating woes. Al-Attiyah won the sixth stage and increased his lead to 14.8s, but there was no room for error with Feghali maintaining the pressure. Jordan’s Faris Bustami had sustained a flat tyre in the fifth stage and retired with a broken steering arm and a damaged steering rack.
Al-Rajhi saw his title challenge begin to fade in Rawda; he lost over four minutes and slipped from seventh to 10th place, as the battle waged between Al-Attiyah and Feghali for the outright lead. But Al-Attiyah attacked in driving rain and muddy conditions in SS7 and headed back to service in torrential rain with a 44.8s lead over Feghali. Both Al-Rajhi and Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh were forced out in the treacherous seventh special with respective radiator and fuel pump problems.
The rain eased for the last two stages of the day. Al-Attiyah extended his lead to 1m 19.2s through the Mount Nebo test, but the organisers cancelled the re-run of the Baptism Site special because the downpour had made the water crossing impassable even in a 4x4 vehicle.
Al-Marri duly maintained fourth position behind Georgiou to ensure that the destiny of the championship would not be decided in Jordan, but the odds were already firmly stacked in the defending champion’s favour heading into the overnight halt.
Tomorrow (Saturday), competitors tackle nine further stages. Runs through the Suwayma (7.55hrs) and Mahes (8.28hrs) specials are followed by the Turki (9.06hrs) and Erak Elamir (9.28hrs) tests, before teams return to the Dead Sea service park.
Suwayma and Mahes are repeated at 11.18hrs and 11.51hrs respectively and a re-run of Friday’s Mount Nebo stage (13.39hrs) and further sprints through Turki (14.14hrs) and Erak Elamir (14.36hrs) bring the competitive action to a close. The podium finish is scheduled at the Dead Sea from 16.15hrs on Saturday afternoon.
2009 Jordan Rally – positions after SS9:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I) Subaru Impreza N15 1h 23m 16.3s
2. Roger Feghali (RL)/Nicola Arena (I) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 1h 24m 35.5s
3. Nick Georgiou (RL)/Joseph Matar (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 1h 29m 32.8s
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza N14 1h 29m 56.8s
5. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza N14 1h 31m 10.7s
6. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Nancy Al-Majali (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 1h 31m 43.7s
7. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE) Subaru Impreza N15 1h 33m 43.3s
8. Mazen Tantash (HKJ)/Carlos del Barrio (E) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 1h 33m 54.3s
9. Faris Hijazi (HKJ)/Emad Juma (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 1h 35m 16.4s
10. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Toyota S2000 1h 48m 05.5s
11. Hickam Al-Abaid (RL)/Serge Akiki (RL) Renault Clio RS 1h 57m 42.3s
For further media information:
2009 Jordan Rally Media Office, Vartanii 1 Ballroom, Ground Floor, Jordan Valley Marriott Spa and Resort, Dead Sea, Jordan, Mobile: + 962 79 612 5831, E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org