MERC Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah takes massive day one lead in Syria
2010 Syrian International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 6 of 8
For immediate release
Friday, October 8th, 2010
QATAR’S NASSER SALEH AL-ATTIYAH SURGES
INTO HUGE SYRIAN RALLY LEAD AFTER DAY ONE
Syria’s Al-Yousefi and Hamsho hold second and seventh
UAE’s Khaled Al-Qassimi retires with engine maladies
Poor start for Qatar’s Al-Marri, Al-Suwaidi and Al-Kuwari
SEDNAYA (Syria): Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini held a massive 7min 39.5sec lead after seven stages of the 10th Syrian International Rally, round six of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), in Sednaya on Friday.
“Mission accomplished so far,” said Al-Attiyah. “I pushed very hard on the very stage to get into a lead and I was able to control my pace from then on. I need to take maximum points. So far so good.”
Engine failure cost main rival Sheikh Khaled Al-Qassimi his second place after three stages and it was left to Syria’s Haitham Al-Yousefi and Ahmad Hamsho to give chase mid-way through the day. The local duo held second and fourth, with Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi sandwiched between them in third overall. Hamsho was delayed late on and Al-Qassimi duly moved up to third spot.
Regional championship leader Misfer Al-Marri started slowly, but climbed to 10th at the day’s mid-point and starts Saturday’s remaining six stages in fourth overall and classified as the third registered MERC driver. Fellow Qatari Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari held fifth position at the end of day one and Ahmad Hamsho slipped to seventh.
Al-Attiyah laid down the gauntlet through the opening 23.85km MTN stage and surged into a massive 53.8s lead over Khaled Al-Qassimi. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari set the third fastest time, but the rest of the Group N field was unable to match the S2000 cars. Al-Marri dropped nearly four minutes to the leader and Khaled Al-Suwaidi found himself over eight minutes adrift in a dramatic start to the two-day rally.
Khaled Al-Qassimi steadied the ship through Maaloula and beat an easing Al-Attiyah by 3.6s, as Al-Yousefi surged into third overall from Abdullah Al-Qassimi. Lebanon’s Michel Saleh succumbed to gear stick problems and Al-Kuwari plummeted to the rear of the field with his own mechanical woes.
Al-Attiyah won the third Jupiter stage and reached service at Deir Ateyah with a 54.6s lead. Al-Yousefi trailed Khaled Al-Qassimi, with Abdullah Al-Qassimi, Qatar’s Abdullah Al-Rabban and Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thafiri completing the top six.
Series leader Al-Marri trailed in 13th position, Al-Suwaidi held 16th, but the morning’s three stages further emphasised the chasm in performance between the leading two S2000 cars and the chasing pack in Group N Subarus and Mitsubishis.
Al-Attiyah was considerably slower the second time through the MTN stage, but he found himself in a lead of 5m 14.9s after the stage. Al-Qassimi had damaged his engine on the run into service and was sidelined, as Al-Marri set the second fastest time and Al-Yousefi inherited second overall.
Al-Marri was second fastest in both the MTN and Maaloula stages and climbed to seventh position, but Al-Attiyah’s lead had grown to 6m 09.2s when he arrived at the sixth timed test. The Qatari was fastest yet again and began the final stage of the day with a massive 6m 29.4s advantage over Al-Yousefi. Al-Kuwari climbed back to fourth overall and Al-Marri’s afternoon surge pushed him into sixth. Only two of the 19 starters had retired.
Al-Attiyah was quickest through the seventh and longest stage of the day, as the leading trio held station on the blustery return to the overnight halt in Sednaya.
The event is taking place under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism with the full support of MTN – official sponsor, SMI, the Sheraton Ma’arat Sednaya, Jupiter Rent-a-Car, Zaman Alkhair, Aldunia television and Al-Madina radio.
Tomorrow (Saturday) there are a further six special stages before the ceremonial finish outside the Sheraton Ma’arat Sednaya. Teams will tackle the Deir Ateyah, Runnet and MTN Speed stages twice during the course of the day.
10th Syrian International Rally – positions after SS7 (unofficial @ 15.58hrs):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I) Ford Fiesta S2000 1h 35m 31.5s
2. Haitham Al-Yousefi (SYR)/Ata Al-Hmoud (HKJ) Subaru Impreza 1h 43m 11.0s
3. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1h 46m 19.5s
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Nicola Arena (I) Subaru Impreza 1h 48m 17.8s
5. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA/Stéphane Prevot (B) Subaru Impreza 1h 50m 51.3s
6. Abdullah Al-Rabban (QA)/Imad Juma (HKJ) Subaru Impreza 1h 50m 56.5s
7. Ahmad Hamsho (SYR)/Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1h 52m 11.2s
8. Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani (QA)/Arif Yousef Mohammed (UAE) Subaru Impreza 1h 52m 11.5s
9. Jaber Al-Marri (QA)/Kamal Khoder (RL) Subaru Impreza 1h 54m 40.2s
10. Amir Arnaout (SYR)/Ala Al-Hmoud (HKJ) Subaru Impreza 1h 56m 06.7s
11. Essam El-Nejadi (KT)/Anwar Al-Sharaah (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1h 56m 15.5s
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