MERC Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah secures 11th Qatar Rally win in 12 years
2014 QMMF Qatar International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1
For immediate release
Saturday, February 22nd, 2014
NASSER SALEH AL-ATTIYAH SECURES 11TH
QATAR RALLY WIN TO LEAD REGIONAL SERIES
· Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari’s brave challenge ends with second overall
· UAE’s Khalid Al-Qassimi snatches third place; Al-Mutawaa top junior
DOHA (Qatar): Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah is used to driving under pressure, but he and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini were pushed all the way to the finish of a thrilling QMMF Qatar International Rally by fellow countryman Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari on Saturday.
Separated by just 5.5 seconds at the start of the second day, Al-Attiyah pressed home a slight advantage once Al-Kuwari and Irish navigator Killian Duffy suffered a drive shaft breakage. The nine-time MERC champion, driving a Ford Fiesta RRC, duly secured his 11th Qatar win in 12 years and his 51st MERC success on the 30th anniversary of the championship. His winning margin was 30.1 seconds.
“Everyone knows I enjoy competing here in Qatar and it’s a special feeling to win here,” said Al-Attiyah, the winner of six of the timed tests. “It was not easy – credit to Abdulaziz for his performance. It’s always important to get points on the board for the championship and winning is always special.”
Second-placed Al-Kuwari is the third generation driver from his family and is following in the footsteps of his rally driving father Sadoon and grandfather Arhema, who took part in the first Qatar Rally with a Fiat in 1975. “I gave it my best shot and am pleased with my performance,” said the Qatari, who won five stages. “Nasser’s record here speaks for itself and I am delighted to have pushed him so hard.”
Radiator and tyre issues plagued Khalid Al-Qassimi; the Abu Dhabi driver finished third and won two of the 13 special stages alongside Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson.
After first-day gearbox woes, Abdullah Al-Kuwari and Italian navigator Nicola Arena climbed into the top five in their Ford Fiesta, edging the Kuwaiti duo of Masoud Al-Saleh and Sulaiman Al-Helal down to fifth before Al-Saleh retired before the final loop of three stages with gearbox issues
Drive shaft problems had sidelined Yazeed Al-Rajhi on day one, but the Saudi hit back with consistent stage times on Saturday to secure points for fourth place after he overtook Abdullah Al-Kuwari on the final stage.
Young Abu Dhabi Racing team member Mohamed Al-Mutawaa won the battle of the five junior Citroën DS3 drivers. He and Ulster navigator Stephen McAuley finished a fine sixth and pipped Mohammed Al-Sahlawi and his Welsh team mate Craig Parry by 2min 29.5sec.
Jordan’s Ala’a Rasheed, Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thafiri and third Abu Dhabi junior Mansoor Bel Helai rounded off the top 10. Germany’s Edith Weiss (12th) beat Qatar’s Nada Zeidan (14th) to the top Ladies’ award.
Al-Attiyah trailed Al-Kuwari by 5.5sec after Friday’s stages, but clocked out of service late “after changing an anti-roll bar” and incurred a 10-second penalty, thus handing a 4.5-sec advantage to Al-Kuwari. This could have put him behind his rival on the road for the final day and given him a better stage running position, but article 45.4 of the regulations clearly states that the start order for subsequent legs is based upon the classification at the finish of the final special stage of the previous leg.
He duly began day two at the front of the field and was forced to sweep the stage surfaces. In hindsight, Al-Attiyah’s team manager Ken Skidmore admitted that the work should have been carried out on Saturday morning.
Eight SupeRally cars joined the 10 surviving crews from day one at the start of the 20.90km of the Mekaines stage, although engine-related issues forced Kuwait’s Saleh bin Eidan to miss out.
Al-Attiyah was the ‘road-sweeper’ and posted a target time of 10min 53.1sec, but Al-Kuwari managed to get inside that and extended his advantage to 5.2sec. Al-Qassimi was even quicker than the Qatari duo to record his second fastest stage time of the weekend, but trailed in third after first day radiator and tyre issues. Spaniard Antonio Troncoso left parc ferme butfailed to start the special.
Al-Attiyah was not to be denied and a clean run through Salwa gave him the fastest time and the outright lead by just 3.3sec. Ala’a Rasheed dropped over three minutes with a puncture and slipped back to ninth overall, as Al-Rajhi climbed to seventh and Abdullah Al-Kuwari overhauled Al-Saleh to snatch fourth.
But Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari was in trouble with a broken drive shaft through the longest stage of the rally – the 27.87km of SS9 – and he dropped a further 46.3sec to Al-Attiyah and reached service trailing the Qatari by 49.6sec. “That is just unlucky, one of those things we take on the chin and move on,” said Al-Kuwari. “Still, we have three stages to go.”
Fifteen of the 17 starters made it to service, but Saeed Al-Mouri’s disappointing challenge ended with rear suspension failure on his Skoda and Kuwait’s Masoud Al-Saleh was not scheduled to go any further with a broken gearbox and lost fifth place.
Could Al-Attiyah hold on to his 49.6-sec lead? Al-Kuwari was not going to give up without a fight, however, and the Qatari won the stage to reduce Nasser’s lead by 3.5sec. He also won the shorter Salwa re-run and headed towards the final special with a comfortable lead of 46.6sec.
There were no late dramas for the defending champion and he secured a maximum haul of 25 championship points to get his challenge for a 10th regional title off to the perfect start. Ala’a Rasheed suffered last stage woes for the second successive day when he stopped to change a flat tyre but held on to eighth. Juma Al-Falaisi was also delayed and Saeed Bintowq stopped and lost 12th place.
Provisional final positions– unofficial @ 15.15hrs:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta RRC 2hr 13min 11.4sec
2. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Ford Fiesta RRC 2hr 13min 41.5sec
3. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Chris Patterson (GBR) Citroën DS3 RRC 2hr 16min 04.6sec
4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Michael Orr (GBR) Ford Fiesta RRC 2hr 38min 31.3sec
5. Abdullah Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Nicola Arena (ITA) Ford Fiesta R5 2hr 39min 01.2sec
6. Mohamed Al-Mutawaa (ARE)/Stephen McAuley (GBR) Citroën DS3 2hr 47min 00.4sec
7. Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (ARE)/Craig Parry (GBR) Citroën DS3 2hr 49min 29.9sec
8. Ala’a Rasheed (JOR)/Joseph Matar (LBN) Ford Fiesta R5 2hr 54min 46.3sec
9. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Fahad Al-Mutairi (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 3hr 03min 52.8sec
10. Mansoor Bel Helai (ARE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (ARE) Citroën DS3 3hr 13min 11.1sec
11. Juma Al-Falaisi (ARE)/John Higgins (IRL) Citroën DS3 3hr 23min 35.8sec
12. Edith Weiss (DEU)/Antoine Salem (LBN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 3hr 40min 06.7sec
13. Hitmi Khalifa Al-Hitmi (QAT)/Kamal Khoder (QAT) Subaru Impreza N12 3hr 52min 27.9sec
14. Nada Zaidan (QAT)/Maja Loncar (CRO) Subaru Impreza N12 4hr 19min 42.1sec
FIA Middle East Rally Championship – positions after round 1 (unofficial):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT) 25pts
2. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT) 18pts
3. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE) 15pts
4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU) 12pts
5. Abdullah Al-Kuwari (QAT) 10pts
6. Mohamed Al-Mutawaa (ARE) 8pts
7. Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (ARE) 6pts
8. Ala’a Rasheed (JOR) 4pts
9. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KWT) 2pts
10. Mansoor Bel Helai (ARE) 1pt
1. Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) 25pts
2. Killian Duffy (IRL) 18pts
3. Chris Patterson(GBR) 15pts
4. Michael Orr (GBR) 12pts
5. Nicola Arena (ITA) 10pts
6. Stephen McAuley (GBR) 8pts
7. Craig Parry (GBR) 6pts
8. Joseph Matar (LBN) 4pts
9. Fahad Al-Mutairi (KWT) 2pts
10. Khalid Al-Kendi (ARE) 1pt
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, International Press Officer, 2014 Qatar International Rally, Qatar Mobile: + 974 55292739, E-mail: email@example.com, www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases), Twitter: @LordPerkins