MERC Three previous rally winners head top class Kuwait Rally entry

2014 KUWAIT INTERNATIONAL RALLY, March 20-22, 2014
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round two

For immediate release
Wednesday, March 19th, 2014


· Kuwait Rally starts at Sirbb karting circuit at 4.30pm on Thursday
· Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah leads 23-cars into desert action
· Weiss, Psarali, Zeidan and Derousseaux fly the female flag

FINTAS (Kuwait): Three of the top four seeds for this weekend’s Kuwait International Rally, round two of the 2014 FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), are previous winners of the event. That statistic alone has set the scene for a titanic battle across 13 special stages, starting with a short super special at the recently opened Sirbb karting circuit from 17.50hrs on Thursday evening.

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah is the favourite for victory. The Qatari won here in 2009, 2011 and 2013 and claimed an 11th victory in his home event last month to snatch a seven-point lead in a regional championship he has won nine times in the last 11 years. Al-Attiyah has 51 MERC victories to his name and his Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini has 22. They will be hard to beat in a Ford Fiesta RRC.

“No problems for us on the recce, the stages are quite nice, nothing really to worry about,” said Al-Attiyah. “It rained this morning, but not too much and, if anything, it adds to the grip.”

Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassmi will be trying to overhaul the Qatari. Winner in Kuwait in 2010, the 2004 regional champion fronts a 39-strong Abu Dhabi Racing Team that has entered six Citroëns in the event - a DS3 RRC for Al-Qassimi and five two-wheel drive DS3 R3s for Abu Dhabi Racing-Citroën Middle East Trophy leader Mohamed Al-Mutawee and rivals Mohamed Al-Sahlawi, Juma Al-Falaisi, Saeed Bintowq and Mansoor Belhelai.

“The stages are lovely, smooth, flowing and a pleasure to work with,” said Al-Mutawee’s Ulster co-driver Allan Harryman, who joined many of the competitors on Tuesday afternoon to recce the Sirbb special stage in on-site electric cars and take time to visit the new Kuwait historic and classic car museum at the circuit.

“But, there are a couple of places we have marked in our notes where two tracks cross on the fourth and seventh stages and this could be a bit tricky and needs a caution.”

Yazeed Al-Rajhi is on a roll at the moment and is virtually tackling an event every week in a hectic rallying programme. The winner of the Kuwait Rally when it ran as a candidate round in 2008, Al-Rajhi has a comfortable lead in the 2014 FIA World Cup after taking wins in Russia and Italy and also won the inaugural Rally Jeddah this year. The Saudi was fourth in the opening MERC round after early problems and needs at least a podium finish to keep his title hopes alive.

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari currently holds second place in the regional series after finishing behind Al-Attiyah in Qatar. He and Irish co-driver Killian Duffy now have a programme of six WRC events to get their teeth into and success in Kuwait will stand Al-Kuwari in good stead for the forthcoming Rally of Portugal.

Saleh bin Eidan failed to finish the opening round after engine issues and he fronts the Kuwaiti challenge on this occasion. The last local to win the Kuwait event was Ahmed Al-Thafiri, who won the seventh edition in 1981 at the wheel of an ex-Shekhar Mehta Datsun 160J SSS with co-driver Sadiq Ashkanani.

Al-Thafiri’s son Meshari is the current leader of the championship’s Group N category after finishing ninth overall in Qatar, and he also bolsters a local challenge that includes Essam Al-Nejadi, Salem Ali, Dawood Al-Gharabally, Elie Chachati and Abdullah Al-Ansari.

Saudi Arabia’s Saeed Al-Mouri (Skoda), Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh and Qatar’s Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Abdullah Al-Kuwari complete the list of potential front-runners.

There are four female competitors in this year’s event; two drivers and a pair of co-drivers. Edith Weiss hails from Germany and has entered for the first time with Greek navigator Vicky Psarali in a Mitsubishi Lancer she collected from the Saudi border on Tuesday.

Qatar’s Nada Zeidan, on the other hand, is returning to the MERC with the backing of the Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation after a sabbatical from the sport to concentrate on promotional work and representing Qatar in the sport of archery.

Weiss and Zeidan finished 12th and 14thoverall at the opening rally in Qatar. Young French navigator Catherine Derousseaux completes the female line-up alongside sixth-seed Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, the promoter of a new UAE national rally championship, in a Ford Fiesta RRC.

The event is being organised by the Kuwait Quarter Mile Auto & Motorcycle Club (KMRC), under the chairmanship of Sheikh Athbi Nayef Jaber Al-Sabah.

Tomorrow (Thursday), there will be an official pre-event press conference for select leading drivers and then competitors from 11 countries - Kuwait, Qatar, Italy, UAE, Great Britain, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, France, Lebanon, Germany and Greece – will line up at the ceremonial start at Kuwait’s new Sirbb race circuit at 4.30pm, prior to tackling a short spectator stage at 5.50pm.

The bulk of the desert action will take place over 12 special stages on Friday and Saturday, with the event finishing at the Safir Hotel and Residences in Fintas at 4.30pm on Saturday.

2014 Kuwait International Rally - start list (provisional:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta RRC
2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Chris Patterson (GBR) Citroën DS3 RRC
3. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Ford Fiesta RRC
4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Michael Orr (GBR) Ford Fiesta RRC
5. Saleh Bin Eidan (KWT)//Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Ford Fiesta R5
6. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Catherine Derousseaux (FRA) Ford Fiesta RRC
7. Abdullah Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Nicola Arena (ITA) Ford Fiesta R5
8. Saeed Al-Mouri (KSA)/Arif Yousef Mohammed (ARE) Skoda Fabia S2000
9. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Mubarak Al-Thefiri (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
10. Essam Al-Nejadi (KWT)/Anwar Al-Shraah (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
11. Michel Saleh (LBN)/Faisal Al-Fazran (KWT) Subaru Impreza
12. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Adel Hussein (QAT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
13. Salem Ali (KWT)/Fares Al-Thafiri (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII
14. Dawood Al-Gharabally (KWT)/Abdulla Al-Ghanim (KWT) Subaru Impreza
16. Mohamed Al-Mutawaa (ARE)/Stephen McAuley (GBR) Citroën DS3 R3
17. Mohamed Al-Sahlawi (ARE)/Craig Parry (GBR) Citroën DS3 R3
18. Elie Chachati (KWT)/Naji Sfeir (LBN) Subaru Impreza
19. Edith Weiss (DEU)/Vicky Psarali (GRC) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
20. Abdullah Al-Ansari (KWT)/Ahmad Al-Ansari (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII
21. Mansoor Belhelai (ARE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (ARE) Citroën DS3 R3
22. Juma Al-Falaisi (ARE)/John Higgins (IRL) Citroën DS3 R3
23. Saeed Bintowq (ARE)/Allan Harryman (GBR) Citroën DS3 R3
24. Nada Zeidan (QAT)/Kamal Khoder (QAT) Subaru Impreza

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

For live results and tracking:



For further information:
English: Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, international media officer, 2014 Kuwait International Rally, Kuwait Mobile: +965 97849064, E-mail: ndppublicity@googlemail.com, Twitter: @LordPerkins
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases).

Arabic: Firas Nimri, Arabic media officer, Kuwait mobile: + 965 97849315, Mobile: + 962 777 282000, E-mail: nimrifiras@yahoo.com.

Twitter: @KuwaitRally


Date issued: 19/03/2014

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