MERC Hamed Al-Wahaibi holds superb second place in Dubai International Rally

FIA Middle East Rally Championship, final round - December 1-3, 2011

For immediate release
Friday, December 2nd, 2011


· Al-Ketbi snatches overall lead; delays for Qatar’s Al-Attiyah
· Al-Wahaibi and Harryman set two fastest stage times

DUBAI (UAE): Oman’s Hamed Al-Wahaibi and Ulster co-driver Allan Harryman held a superb second overall after the first six special stages of the 33rd Dubai International Rally, the final round of the 2011 FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), on Friday.

At the wheel of the Wahaibi Motor Sport (WMS)-run Mitsubishi Evolution X, the new pairing settled well into a fast pace and were up among the top runners from the outset, the pair even setting the equal fastest time on the second special and the outright fastest time in SS5. They were comfortably the fastest of the Group N runners among the 14 starters.

Dubai’s Rashid Al-Ketbi and Khaled Al-Kendi held a 31.8-second advantage in their Skoda Fabia S2000 at the end of the first day. Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah was down in fourth position, as he attempts to win the regional title for the seventh time in nine years.

“I have been enjoying myself out there on the stages after such a long absence,” admitted Al-Wahaibi. I’m enjoying the car and the driving and still leaving a lot in reserve to stay cautious. I’m delighted to be straight into a competitive pace and to be able to match and beat the S2000 cars.”

Al-Wahaibi and Harryman settled in well with the sixth fastest time through the opening Spirit of the Union stage, held on the UAE’s National Day. Rashid Al-Ketbi got the better of Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thafiri to edge into an early 1.2s lead.

But Al-Wahaibi was in stunning form through the punishing 34.38km of the second Al-Thameed stage and equalled Al-Attiyah’s time to record the fastest time on the stage – it was a stunning performance on only his second event since returning to the sport in the WMS-backed Mitsubishi. The outcome pushed the Omani into third place.

Al-Wahaibi was fourth quickest through the third Shawqa test after losing his way for a short time and he slipped to fourth place behind Al-Attiyah, Al-Ketbi and stage winner Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi. The UAE’s Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum and Ron Oakeley had already retired.

Al-Attiyah has also lost time trying to find the correct route and had collided with a tree at one point and lost vital seconds, but there was no stopping a flying Al-Wahaibi. He set the third fastest time on the re-run of the Spirit of the Union stage behind Al-Attiyah and Al-Ketbi and maintained third overall.

He was in sensational form for the second pass in the Al-Thameed stage as well and set his second fastest time of the day, beating Al-Attiyah by 4.1s and defying the fact that he had been away from the driving seat for so long. The performance meant that he passed Al-Qassimi into second position and confirmed that he was comfortably the fastest of the Group N cars to maintain second overall.

The Omani set the third time in the sixth Shawqa stage to confirm second overall at the end of the day.

A further six gravel special stages take place on Saturday and the event is scheduled to finish back at the Emaar Boulevard from 16.30hrs in the afternoon.

Positions after Day 1 (SS6):
1. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE)/Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) Skoda Fabia S2000 1h 11m 48.8s
2. Hamed Al-Wahaibi (OMN)/Allan Harryman (GBR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1h 12m 20.6s
3. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GBR) Ford Fiesta S2000 1h 12m 22.8s
4. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta S2000 1h 12m 46.6s
5. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT)/Saad Al-Melaifi (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1h 19m 38.3s, etc


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


Date issued: 02/12/2011

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