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MERC Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah clinches fifth Jordan Rally victory in seven years

2009 Jordan Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 6 of 7

For immediate release
Saturday, October 31st, 2009

QATAR’S AL-ATTIYAH CRUISES TO FIFTH

JORDAN RALLY VICTORY IN SEVEN YEARS

 

·        Lebanon’s Feghali seals second; Qatar’s Al-Marri snatches third

·        Jordanian drivers secure fifth, sixth, ninth and 10th overall

·        Saudi’s Al-Rajhi claims four points and retains slim title chance

 

DEAD SEA (Jordan): Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini brushed the opposition aside in the 2009 Jordan Rally on Saturday. The pair won three of the second day’s nine gravel stages, as Al-Attiyah recorded his 33rd win in a round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship and his fifth Jordanian success in seven years.

 

The Qatari now leads the regional series by three points and needs to finish first or second in next month’s Dubai International Rally to guarantee a sixth regional title in seven years. Lebanon’s Roger Feghali and Italian co-driver Nicola Arena pushed Al-Attiyah all the way on day one, won six stages during the second day and eventually claimed second position, but Al-Attiyah produced a masterful display of controlled driving in difficult conditions and eased his pace when appropriate over the two days.

 

“I always enjoy this rally and this year was one of the most enjoyable,” said Al-Attiyah. “The weather made the road conditions very difficult. It was slippery and muddy yesterday and greasy today with no dust. It was a case of finding a fast pace that was also safe. I needed to concentrate, especially on the twisty sections. I tried my best and managed to do what I needed to do. I got the 10 points and pulled two points further away from Misfer. It is not over yet and is all to play for in Dubai.”

 

Lebanon’s Nick Georgiou held third at the start of the final day and came under increasing pressure from Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri over the morning’s stages. The pair were tied to the same tenth of a second after the 11th stage before Al-Marri moved ahead over the closing stages to retain his fading dream of winning a first regional championship title. Georgiou crashed out of fourth place on the penultimate stage.

 

The UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and British co-driver Steve Lancaster finished fourth in their Subaru and Amjad Farrah flew the Jordanian flag with a top five finish in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Mazan Tantash and finished sixth for the host nation and Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi retained a mathematical chance of winning the regional title by taking four points for seventh overall. Lebanon’s Michel Saleh and Jordan’s Faris Bustami and Faris Hijazi rounded off the top 10.

“My congratulations to Nasser on his victory and all the officials and competitors for their efforts this week,” said HRH Prince Feisal Al-Hussein, Chairman of Jordan Motorsport. “Despite the challenges of the inclement weather on Friday, we have run a first class event and that stands us in good stead for when we host the FIA World Rally Championship again in April 2010.”

 

The story of the day

 

There were no stage cancellations after Friday’s freak weather and Al-Attiyah began the defence of his 1m 19.7s lead over Feghali in the 12km Suwayma stage. Eighteen of the original entry started day two, with seven cars running under SupeRally, including Al-Rajhi and Bustami.

 

Al-Attiyah beat Feghali by 17.5s over the slippery gravel surface and increased his lead to 1m 36.7s, as Al-Marri began to challenge Georgiou for third place with the third fastest time. The flying Qatari moved into joint third position with Georgiou through Mahes to keep the pressure firmly on Al-Attiyah for the overall championship title.

 

Feghali managed to claw 18.2s back from Al-Attiyah through the Turki and Erak Elamir stages and reduced the deficit to1m 12.5s on the return to the Dead Sea for service. An intense battle was raging between Georgiou and Al-Marri: the Lebanese edged back into a 1.1s lead through Turki but was beaten by Al-Marri in Erak Elamir and Misfer found himself with a 21-second hold on third position. Hickam Al-Abaid’s brave run in the two-wheel drive Renault Clio ended when the Lebanese became bogged down in mud after a water crossing.

 

Al-Attiyah returned to stage-winning ways in Suwayma and extended his overall advantage by 5.1s, as Al-Marri continued to edge away from Georgiou and take control of third place. In the fight for the overall win, Feghali clawed 13s back in Mahes and headed into the final three stages trailing the Qatari by 1m 02.6s.

 

Georgiou refused to surrender in the fight for third overall and the Pirelli Star Driver finalist regained 17.2s in Mahes and trailed Al-Marri by just 5.6s before the second Mount Nebo special. The UAE’s Rashid Al-Ketbi succumbed to mechanical problems and lost seventh position.

 

Feghali reduced the gap at the front to just 59.5s through SS16, although Al-Attiyah had noticeably eased his pace to conserve the Autotek-run Subaru and reduce the risk of a late calamity. There was no respite in the duel for third and Georgiou reduced Al-Marri’s hold on the final podium place to three seconds to set up a fascinating showdown through the remaining two specials.

 

Feghali beat Al-Attiyah by 20s in Turki and began the final stage 38.6s behind an easing Al-Attiyah, but the battle for third ended in spectacular style when Georgiou crashed out of the rally in Turki. His demise promoted Al-Rajhi from ninth to eighth and meant the Saudi gained an extra point in his quest to topple Al-Attiyah for the regional title. The Qatari maintained his composure over the final 12km of SS18 to confirm victory by the margin of 32.2s.

 

2009 Jordan Rally – final positions after SS18:

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I)   Subaru Impreza N15                   2h 54m 59.9s*

2. Roger Feghali (RL)/Nicola Arena (I) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX                                  2h 55m 32.1s

3. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza N14                          3h 05m 05.1s*

4. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza N14                3h 06m 49.1s*

5. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Nancy Al-Majali (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX                       3h 07m 45.9s*

6. Mazen Tantash (HKJ)/Carlos del Barrio (E) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX                       3h 12m 35.6s

7. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Peugeot S2000                                          3h 16m 49.1s*

8. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ahmed Ghaziri (RL) Subaru Impreza N14                                           3h 21m 36.2s*

9. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Zeid Abu Zeid (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX             3h 24m 36.3s*

10. Faris Hijazi (HKJ)/Emad Juma (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX                              3h 29m 27.1

 

*denotes registered MERC drivers

 

2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship - positions after round 6 of 7:

Drivers

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)                  40 pts            

2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)                                 37 pts                                    

3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)                             32 pts                        

4. Nick Georgiou (RL)                                  13 pts            

4. Mubarak Al-Hajri (QA)                              13 pts                        

6. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)             12 pts

7. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)                     11 pts            

8. Michel Saleh (RL)                         10 pts            

9. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QA)                            8 pts

9. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT)                          8 pts, etc

 

Co-drivers

1. Chris Patterson (GB)                                44 pts

2. Matthieu Baumel (F)                                 36 pts            

3. Steve Lancaster (GB)                              17 pts

4. Michael Orr (GB)                                       16 pts

5. Joseph Matar (RL)                                    13 pts            

6. Adel Abdullah (QA)                                   12 pts, etc     

                       
Ends

 

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: media@jordanrally.com or ndppublicity@googlemail.com

 

www.merc-fia.com

www.jordanrally.com



 

Date issued: 31/10/2009

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