MERC Khalid Al-Qassimi extends his lead after day one in Kuwait Rally

FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round two

For immediate release
Friday, March 5th, 2010


·         UAE’s Rashid Al-Ketbi holds second; Qatar’s Al-Suwaidi in third

·         Essam Al-Nejadi leads local entrants; misery for Al-Marri and Saleh

JAHRA (Kuwait): The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr held a 7.7-second lead after seven special stages of the 2010 Kuwait International Rally, round two of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), on Friday afternoon.

The Ford Fiesta S2000 crew won four of the day’s five stages and were pushed all the way over the demanding, sandy tests in the Kuwait desert by Rashid Al-Ketbi and Khaled Al-Kendi in their Skoda Fabia S2000.

The second Emirati crew won one stage and were comfortably quicker than any other team, but settled for second position at the end of the day after intercom problems, a puncture and a failing clutch. Qatar’s Khaled Al-Suwaidi and British co-driver Nick Beech held third overall.

“It has not been easy, but this is just the start we needed,” said Al-Qassimi. “Rashid has pushed us hard and meant we have had no margin for error.”

Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel badly needed a points-scoring finish in Kuwait after failing to score in Qatar recently. A puncture dogged their progress early on and then the Peugeot’s transmission gave up the ghost on the final stage of the day, although they managed to post a stage time and held fifth place.

Essam Al-Nejadi and Anwar Al-Sharrah were the leading Kuwaiti crew in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX in seventh place, after overheating ruined Meshari Al-Thafiri’s challenge and Saleh Bin Eidan damaged his engine on the last stage of the opening leg.

Day one

Khalid Al-Qassimi headed into the opening Al-Salmi stage a mere 0.1 seconds in front of Al-Rajhi, but the special was cancelled soon afterwards and crews headed to Al-Alatraff, only after top seed Misfer Al-Marri had fractured an oil pipe around eight kilometre from the stage finish and lost most of the oil from his Subaru’s engine. The engine was damaged beyond repair and the Qatari will be unable to restart under SupeRally on Saturday.

Al-Qassimi – the 2004 regional champion - was 11.6s quicker than Al-Ketbi at the wheel of his Ford Fiesta S2000 through SS3 and extended his overall lead. Lebanon’s Michel Saleh by the wayside with turbo problems and was joined by Qatar’s Jaber Al-Marri with gearbox woes.

Al-Ketbi struck back immediately at the Shooting Club and a scintillating time pushed the UAE driver to within 0.6 seconds of Al-Qassimi.

Meshari Al-Thafiri had begun the day in third overall, but the Kuwaiti struggled with overheating issues, as Meshal Al-Nejadi joined the growing list of retirements with engine problems forcing him not to start the day. Local driver Mubarak Al-Thafiri also retired with clutch maladies.

Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi ruined his chance of taking outright victory when he lost four minutes changing a puncture and slipped to 14th overall. Qatar’s Khalid Al-Suwaidi moved up to third overall and Saleh Bin Eidan headed the local challenge in fourth place.

Al-Qassimi hit back through Al-Salmi and extended his lead over Al-Ketbi to 3.8 seconds. The pair were now the class of the field, as Al-Rajhi recovered by setting the third fastest time and Bin Eidan plummeted from fourth to 16th after losing 12 minutes with mechanical problems. Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi began his climb into the top five.

Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and new Belgian co-driver Stéphane Prevot were unable to reach the stage and retired after gearbox problems sustained on the previous timed test.

Al-Qassimi edged a further 2.4 seconds in front of Al-Ketbi through the second Al-Alatraff special to take his advantage to 6.2 seconds, although Al-Ketbi admitted that the stages were very slippery.

“Because they are so slippery I have lost the line a couple of times and slid into the little sand ridges at the edge of the stages and that caused me to get a puncture on the third one,” said Al-Ketbi. Kuwait’s Mufeed Mubarak was also driving cautiously down in 15th position, but a third stage puncture did not help his cause.

Al-Qassimi stayed away from trouble through the second Shooting Club special and reached the overnight halt with a 7.7-second overall lead over Al-Ketbi. But Al-Rajhi and Bin Eidan were both in the wars again and Qatar’s Khaled Al-Suwaidi reached the overnight halt in a fine third position. Sharjah’s Abdullah Al-Qassimi maintained his excellent fourth overall.

The event is being organised by the Kuwait Motor Sports Club (KMSC) under the patronage of His Excellency the Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and the presidency of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Dawood Al-Sabah

Tomorrow (Saturday) there will be seven remaining desert special stages. The competitive action gets underway with the first of two runs through the 13.50km Sulibikhat special from 08.56hrs and this is followed by the first of two passes through stages at Al-Metlaa (09.44hrs) and the Shooting Club (10.42hrs).

The timed tests are repeated on Saturday afternoon, after a main service and regroup at the Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Olympic Shooting Complex, before the competitive action concludes with a second pass through the 3.5km super special stage from 15.45hrs. The event draws to a close with the ceremonial finish at the Kuwait Towers from 17.00hrs.

Positions after SS7 (unofficial @ 17.15hrs):

1. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Ford Fiesta S2000                        1h 10m 30.3s

2. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE)/Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) Skoda Fabia S2000                    1h 10m 38.0s

3. Khaled Al-Suwaidi (QA)/Nicky Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza                                 1h 14m 06.7s

4. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza                1h 14m 47.4s

5. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Peugeot 207 S2000                    1h 16m 37.0s

6. Sheikh Hamed bin Eid Al-Thani (QA)/Arif Yousuf (UAE) Subaru Impreza                 1h 16m 40.6s

7. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT)/Anwar Al-Sharrah (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX             1h 17m 50.1s

8. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Amr Refai (KSA) Subaru Impreza WRX STi                                1h 17m 57.7s

9. Mazan Tantash (HKJ)/Carlos Del Barrio (E) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX             1h 18m 21,5s

10. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT)/Fares Al-Thaifiri (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX             1h 19m 31.4s

11. Faris Hijazi (HKJ)/Ata Al-Hmoud (HKJ) Subaru Impreza N15                        1h 19m 59.6s

12. Mubarak Al-Hajri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Subaru Impreza STi                          1h 20m 54.4s


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, International Media Liaison, 2010 Kuwait International Rally, NDP Publicity Services, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: ndppublicity@googlemail.com, www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)





Date issued: 05/03/2010

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