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MERC Comfortable first day lead for Al-Attiyah in Jordan Rally

Jordan Rally
2014 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3

For immediate release
Friday, May 2nd, 2014

COMFORTABLE FIRST DAY JORDAN
RALLY LEAD FOR QATAR’S AL-ATTIYAH

· Second for Khalid Al-Qassimi; brother Sheikh Abdullah in third
· Group N lead for Jordan’s Husam Salem; Al-Mutawee top Junior
· Ten gravel special stages planned in Saturday’s rally timetable

DEAD SEA (Jordan): Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Italian navigator Giovanni Bernacchini won nine of the day’s 10 timed special stages in the Jordan Rally, round three of the 2014 FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), and moved into an overall lead of 1min 10.5sec on Friday afternoon.

“No problems and a good clean run,” said Al-Attiyah. “It was slippery in places and I needed to take care, but I was always in control of the pace and now I have a good lead to take into the last day.”

Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Chris Patterson managed to beat the defending regional champion’s Ford Fiesta RRC on the fourth timed test and were a comfortable second in the sole factory Citroën DS3 RRC.

Both drivers were in a class of their own, but a fierce battle waged for third place between Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, Salah bin Eidan and local hero Marouf Abu Samra. The Jordanian held the advantage until he punctured on stage six and slipped to fifth.

From then on, Sharjah-based Al-Qassimi moved clear to reach the overnight halt in third and Abu Samra became embroiled in a tussle with Kuwaiti Bin Eidan for fourth. The pair traded times and positions throughout the afternoon and Abu Samra pulled clear over the closing kilometres to claim fourth place.

The local crew of Husam Salem and Nancy Al-Majali finished the day comfortably clear of their rivals in the Group N category and held a fine sixth overall. Jordan’s Ala’a Rasheed held seventh position and Qatar’s Abdullah Al-Kuwari overcame an early indiscretion to secure eighth.

Abu Dhabi Racing’s Mohamed Al-Mutawee, partnered by Ulster co-driver Stephen McAuley, was the class of the Junior and 2WD field in the first of four surviving Citroën DS3 R3s. Saeed Bintowq and Allan Harryman held second place.

Day 1 – as it happened

QMMF Rally Team mechanics were able to replace the broken front differential that had plagued Khalifa Al-Attiyah in the Abdali super special stage and the Qatari was able to continue with a 10-minute time penalty.

His brother Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, therefore, led 20 rivals into the 9.58km of the opening Mount Nebo stage on Friday morning and extended his advantage over Khalid Al-Qassimi by 3.4 seconds with the quickest time. Jordanians Salamah Al-Qammaz and Mohammed Rasheed failed to make the start.

The Ma’in 1 stage followed and Al-Attiyah traversed the 16.80km in 12min 19.5sec to extend his lead to 12 seconds. Abu Samra tightened his grip on third to 8.2 seconds. Al-Mutawee held a comfortable 2WD and Junior lead, but Abu Dhabi rival Mohamed Al-Sahlawi dropped over one and a half minutes in SS2 and returned to the Dead Sea without starting SS3 after spinning and damaging the rear right suspension of his DS3 R3.

Al-Qassimi reduced Al-Attiyah’s lead to 11.6sec with the quickest time through Suwayma 1 and Abdullah Al-Qassimi closed to within 1.8sec of regaining third overall from Abu Samra but local driver Suhail Al-Jariri retired on the road section after SS4.

The leading Qatari upped the ante once again through Yakrut and the quickest time increased his advantage to 21.5sec. There was no respite either and the winner of 52 MERC rallies reached service with a lead of 28.5sec after winning the sixth Bahath special.

A puncture cost Abu Samra over a minute and he slipped to fifth overall but good news had filtered through via co-driver Michael Orr from Riyadh concerning the health of Yazeed Al-Rajhi. The Saudi driver, who had been forced to withdraw from the event on health grounds, will not require medical attention for a feared heart condition after a Riyadh doctor diagnosed a stone in the Ford driver’s gall bladder.

“Traction is a big problem for me,” said second-placed Khalid Al-Qassimi at the midday service. “We have been wheel-spinning all the time and sliding on the small stones. We need to make some adjustments. The tyres are not gripping.”

The five timed stages were repeated in the afternoon and Al-Attiyah shaved three seconds off his morning run through Mount Nebo and extended his advantage to 33.7sec. Abu Samra regained fourth from Salah bin Eidan after setting the third quickest time.

The gap at the top grew to 45.2sec through Ma’in 2 and Bin Eidan pipped Abu Samra to regain fourth place by just seven-tenths of a second. Nada Zeidan’s run in the QMMF-backed Subaru ended on the road section after the stage. She had been lying in 19th overall.

Al-Attiyah continued his relentless push in Suwayma 2 and headed for the last two stages of the day with a lead of 48.7sec. The advantage grew to 59.8sec through Yakrut and another fastest time in Bahath 2 gave the Qatari a comfortable overnight lead of 1min 10.5sec. Jordanian Ala’ Khalifeh fell foul of technical issues on the penultimate stage and Lebanon’s Michel Saleh suffered his own problems in SS11.

Tomorrow (Saturday), crews will tackle the remaining 10 gravel special stages in the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea areas. The day will be split into two loops of five stages, split by a midday service at the Dead Sea, although there will be a remote refuelling zone after two timed tests.

The Shuna stage gets proceedings underway at (09.23hrs) and is followed by Al-Karama (10.13hrs), Rawda (11.08hrs), Turki (11.37hrs) and a run passed the Baptism Site at 12.14hrs. The five stages are repeated on Saturday afternoon at 14.08hrs, 14.58hrs, 15.53hrs, 16.22hrs and 16.59hrs, before the podium finish takes place at the Dead Sea from 18.15hrs.

2014 Jordan Rally – positions after SS11:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta RRC 1hr 25min 49.1sec
2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Chris Patterson (GBR) Citroën DS3 RRC 1hr 26min 59.6sec
3. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Catherine Derousseaux (FRA) Ford Fiesta RRC 1hr 32min 52.4sec
4. Marouf Abu Samra (JOR)/Nicola Fanous (JOR) Skoda Fabia S2000 1hr 34min 06.8sec
5. Salah Bin Eidan (KWT)//Alex Gelsomino (USA) Ford Fiesta R5 1hr 34min 31.9sec
6. Husam Salem (JOR)/Nancy Al-Majali (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII 1hr 36min 01.1sec
7. Ala’a Rasheed (JOR)/Joseph Matar (LEB) Ford Fiesta RRC 1hr 37min 54.6sec
8. Abdullah Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Nicola Arena (ITA) Ford Fiesta R5 1hr 40min 37.9sec
9. Mohamed Al-Mutawaa (ARE)/Stephen McAuley (GBR) Citroën DS3 R3 1hr 41min 28.5sec
10. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Emad Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1hr 43min 34.5sec
11. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Adel Hussein (QAT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo XI 1hr 48min 29.8sec
12. Saeed Bintowq (ARE)/Allan Harryman (GBR) Citroën DS3 R3 1hr 51min 46.1sec
13. Juma Al-Falaisi (ARE)/John Higgins (IRL) Citroën DS3 R3 1hr 53min 28.8sec
14. Khaled Juma (JOR)/Ibrahim Qadadeh (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII 1hr 53min 33.9sec
15. Mansoor Belhelai (ARE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (ARE) Citroën DS3 R3 1hr 54min 09.0sec
16. Basheer Azar (JOR)/Bilal Majdalawi (JOR) Subaru Impreza 2hr 02min 30.2sec

Ends

Neil Perkins, International Press Officer, 2014 Jordan Rally, Crowne Plaza Jordan Dead Sea Resort and Spa, Media Centre, Jordan mobile: + 962 79 0873257, UK mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@googlemail.com and media@joc.jo - www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases). Twitter: @LordPerkins

www.jordanrally.com
Facebook Group - Jordan Motorsport (الأردنية لرياضة السيارات)
Twitter: @Jordanmotorspor

Date issued: 02/05/2014

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