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MERC Khalid Al-Qassimi seals victory in Kuwait International Rally

KUWAIT INTERNATIONAL RALLY, March 4th-6th, 2010
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round two

For immediate release
Saturday, March 6th, 2010

UAE’S KHALID AL-QASSIMI CLAIMS SEVENTH MERC VICTORY IN KUWAIT

·         UAE’s Rashid Al-Ketbi seals second; late misery for Saudi’s Al-Rajhi

·         Essam Al-Nejadi finishes top Kuwaiti in sixth; podium for Al-Suwaidi

JAHRA (Kuwait): The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr clinched a comfortable victory in the 2010 Kuwait International Rally, round two of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), on Saturday.

At the wheel of his new Autotek-supported Ford Fiesta S2000, Al-Qassimi gradually extended his 7.7s overnight lead over the second day’s seven desert special stages to record his seventh regional championship rally victory by the margin of 49 seconds. It was his first win in Kuwait.

The feat moved the Emirati into a joint lead with Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani in the 2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship and enabled Al-Qassimi to tie Roger Feghali’s seven regional rally wins, making Al-Qassimi the joint fourth most successful driver in the history of the MERC.

“This win came at an important time and it has given me a great chance to challenge for the Middle East title,” said Ford’s delighted WRC factory driver. “It is only my second event in the Ford Fiesta and I showed in Qatar that the pace is there. We were able to control the event today and take no risks.

“It is nice to be back on the top step of the podium with a win here in Kuwait. It has thrown the championship wide open. I must give a special thanks to the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and my team for giving me this chance.”

Rashid Al-Ketbi and Khaled Al-Kendi were unable to match Al-Qassimi and Orr in their Skoda Fabia S2000, but the UAE crew had the consolation of second position and eight crucial championship points, a blocked air filter not helping their cause in the choking dusty conditions.

Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel began the day in fifth position with their Kronos Peugeot 207 S2000. Al-Rajhi was in flying form and impressive stage times saw him overall Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and Khalid Al-Suwaidi to move into third position.

But the Saudi suffered engine problems on the penultimate stage and Al-Suwaidi and British co-driver Nick Beech finished fourth overall in their converted Autotek recce car. The UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and British co-driver Steve Lancaster were fourth.

Qatar’s Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani, partnered by UAE co-driver Arif Yousuf, continued his resurgent form to claim a fine fifth position. The 1993 regional champion also earned joint first position in the Drivers’ Championship after two of eight rounds.

Essam Al-Nejadi and Anwar Al-Sharrah began the day as the leading Kuwaiti crew and managed to hold on to claim sixth overall. Kuwaiti drivers Meshari Al-Thafiri and Abdullah Al-Hajri were seventh and ninth. There were 16 registered finishers.

Surviving crews were welcomed over the finishing podium at the Kuwait Towers by Mr. Jasim Yaqoub, vice-president of public youth and sport in Kuwait, the KMSC’s Sheikh Ahmad Al-Dawood Al-Sabah and Brigadier Mahmoud Al-Doseri, head of Kuwait’s traffic department.

The event was 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.

Day two

Al-Qassimi began the final’s day seven stages with a 7.7s lead over Al-Ketbi and he was in terrific form from the outset. The Emirati set the fastest time and extended his lead to 27.5s, as Al-Ketbi was forced to stop and remove dust from the Skoda’s air filter. Twenty of the original 27 starters made day two, but Jordanian Mazan Tantash rolled in the first stage of the day.

Al-Suwaidi began the day in third, a position that was all the more surprising bearing in mind that the Qatari was forced to use his Subaru Impreza N12 recce car. Autotek mechanics had worked through the night to convert it into a rally car before the start and Al-Suwaidi set the fourth fastest time on the eighth Sulibikhat special.

Al-Qassimi was again quickest through Al-Metlaa and his overall lead rose to 46.4s. Al-Rajhi was the other driver in form; the Saudi began the day in fifth overall and he began to close in on Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi’s fourth position. Jordanian Faris Hijazi fell by the wayside with gearbox trouble and Mubarak Al-Hajri lost a chunk of time and any chance of regaining a slot in the top 10. He slipped to 13th of the surviving 18 cars. Essam Al-Nejadi maintained seventh overall and the honour of being the leading Kuwaiti driver.

Al-Qassimi beat Al-Ketbi by just 1.8 seconds through the 10th stage, where Al-Rajhi shaved another 22 seconds off Abdullah Al-Qassimi’s fourth position and Saudi Arabia’s Ahmed Al-Sabban plummeted to 18th overall after losing 27 minutes.

Al-Hajri withdrew before the re-run of the Sulibikhat special with terminal engine problems, but it was business as usual for Al-Qassimi and Orr at the head of the field. They edged a further two seconds in front of Al-Ketbi, as Al-Suwaidi maintained third overall and Al-Rajhi moved to within 49 seconds of the podium and duly overtook Abdullah Al-Qassimi to claim fourth spot.

Al-Rajhi was fastest of the 17 surviving crews through Al-Metlaa and the Saudi snatched third overall from Al-Suwaidi, who punctured, after a sterling performance. Khalid Al-Qassimi was third quickest, but had already begun to ease his pace somewhat and maintained a 41.1s overall lead over Al-Ketbi.

His closest rival was quickest through the penultimate special, but Al-Qassimi headed to the final super special of the event with a comfortable 35.2s advantage.

Al-Rajhi’s brave charge ended in the final desert kilometres and all the hard work of the morning was undone by terminal engine problems sustained after a heavy landing caused substantial front-end damage to his Peugeot. His demise promoted Al-Suwaidi to third and Abdullah Al-Qassimi back to fourth overall.

Positions after SS14 (unofficial @ 15.00hrs):

1. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Ford Fiesta S2000                        2h 13m 51.1s

2. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE)/Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) Skoda Fabia S2000                    2h 14m 40.1s

3. Khaled Al-Suwaidi (QA)/Nicky Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza                                 2h 20m 43.0s

4. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza                2h 22m 02.3s

5. Sheikh Hamed bin Eid Al-Thani (QA)/Arif Yousuf (UAE) Subaru Impreza                 2h 24m 21.0s

6. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT)/Anwar Al-Sharrah (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX             2h 29m 05.8s

7. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT)/Fares Al-Thaifiri (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX             2h 35m 21.9s

8. Mohammed Al-Marri (QA)/Faris Alouh (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution                2h 36m 54.6s

9. Abdullah Al-Hajri (KT)/Othman Hamdar (KT) Subaru Impreza STi                          2h 46m 33.1s

10. Jaber Al-Marri (QA)/Kamal Khoder (RL) Subaru Impreza                                   2h 47m 41.4s

11. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA)/Stéphane Prevot (B) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX             2h 48m 34.0s

 

2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship – positions after round 2 (unofficial)

Drivers

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)              10 pts

1. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)   10 pts

1. Sheikh Hamad Bin Eid Al-Thani (QA)            10 pts              

4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)                                 8 pts

4. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE)                   8 pts

6. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QA)                 6 pts

7. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)                            5 pts

7. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)            5 pts

7. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT)                                5 pts                

10. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA)               4 pts

11. Mufeed Mubarak (KT)                 3 pts

12. Mohammed Al-Marri (QA)                 2 pts                

12. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT)                     2 pts

 

Co-drivers

1. Giovanni Bernacchini (I)                           10 pts

1. Michael Orr (GB)                             10 pts

1. Arif Yousuf (UAE)                           10 pts              

4. Nicola Arena (I)                                 8 pts

4. Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE)                  8 pts

6. Nicky Beech (GB)                             6 pts

7. Denis Giraudet (F)                               5 pts

7. Steve Lancaster (GB)                          5 pts

Ends

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)

www.merc-fia.com

www.q8racing.com

Date issued: 06/03/2010

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