MERC Qatar's Al-Attiyah wins all Friday's stages to extend lead in Oman International Rally
2015 Oman International Rally
November 5-7, 2015
2015 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 7
For immediate release
Friday, November 6th, 2015
QATAR’S AL-ATTIYAH WINS ALL FRIDAY’S STAGES
TO EXTEND LEAD IN OMAN INTERNATIONAL RALLY
· Abu Dhabi Racing’s Al-Qassimi in second; Qatar’s Al-Kuwari takes third
· Kuwait’s Salah bin Eidan edges closer to Group N title; Al-Harthy top Omani
· Six stages in the Khoud, Murayat and Misfah North areas on Saturday
MUSCAT (Oman): Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah was firmly on course to equal Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s record of 60 victories in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship after leg one of the 23rd Oman International Rally on Friday.
The Qatari and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel won all six of the day’s gravel special stages to hold a comfortable outright lead of 1min 18.6sec in their Ford Fiesta RRC. They have enjoyed a remarkable season thus far and were in a class of their own over the Sultanate’s testing mountain roads.
“No problems at all today and a good clean run on beautiful special stages,” said Al-Attiyah. “We have a good lead now and can control our pace tomorrow and ensure that we don’t take any risks.”
Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, driving a Citroën DS3 RRC and partnered by Ulster’s Chris Patterson, held second position.
Despite driving on a flat tyre, Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and British navigator Marshall Clarke were third – 24.8 seconds behind Al-Qassimi - and Khalid Al-Suwaidi and Giovanni Bernacchini rounded off the top four.
Kuwaiti Salah Bin Eidan remains on course to clinch the Group N championship title in Oman and holds fifth position with Slovenian co-driver Vili Oslaj.
“I have been very impressed with the organisation of the rally,” said Bin Eidan. “Marshals were very evident on the stages, you could see ambulances and this is the first time I have seen this in the championship. They are normally at the starts and finishes.”
The rate of attrition was high in the heat on the gravel surfaces and only 10 of the 14 cars finished the day. Saif Al-Harthy was the leading Omani driver in sixth, after Zakariah Al-Ofi lost time in the seventh stage. Mansoor Bel Helai headed Abu Dhabi Racing team-mate Saeed Bintowq in the two-wheel drive contest.
Friday – as it happened
Saeed Bintowq was penalised five minutes for his engine change after scrutineering and the non-arrival of a service vehicle meant that Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thafiri was forced to retire.
Al-Attiyah set the target time of 11min 18.3sec through the opening 19.8km of the Rusayl stage and it was comfortably quicker than the time set by Al-Qassimi and enabled the Qatari to extend his lead to 21.6 seconds heading towards the Misfah stage. After a prop shaft change before the start of the day, Al-Suwaidi benefited from Al-Kuwari driving on a flat tyre to set the third quickest time. Bin Eidan continued to control Group N and Zakariya Al-Ofi moved ahead in the local contingent.
Al-Attiyah managed to beat Al-Kuwari by just two-tenths of a second through the third stage – where Abdulaziz ran wide on a corner - and his advantage over Al-Qassimi climbed to 23.8 seconds. Rashid Al-Naimi’s Group N run came to an end and only 13 cars made it to the start of the Saal special.
The rally leader continued to pull away from his rivals and beat Al-Kuwari by 4.9 seconds to take a lead of 38.6 seconds into the midday service stop and regroup at the Oman Automobile Association. Al-Kuwari and Al-Suwaidi held third and fourth, Group N leader Bin Eidan was fifth and Al-Ofi headed the local contingent in sixth.
Mansoor Bel Helai was comfortably ahead of Bintowq in the 2WD category, despite a puncture. Neither Khalid Al-Minji nor former agency photographer Hamid Al-Qasmi managed to complete the stage and 11 cars reached the service point in their allotted time.
Al-Attiyah was three seconds slower on the re-run of Rusayl, but he still managed to win the stage and the gap at the front grew to 53.7 seconds. Al-Kuwari and Al-Qassimi were separated by just six-tenths of a second, although the Emirati remained in a solid second after Al-Kuwari’s earlier delays. Qassim Al-Zadali was sidelined and reduced the runners to 10.
Nasser was again the man to beat in Misfah 2 and he arrived at the start of the final stage of the day with a lead of 61 seconds. There were no last minute dramas for the Qatari, however, and a time of 11min 46.9sec was enough to set yet another fastest time and take a comfortable lead into the overnight halt. Al-Ofi lost over 12 minutes in the last stage and slipped from sixth to ninth.
There will be a further three special stages, repeated twice, on Saturday. Action begins with the 20.86km of the Khoud old village stage at 09.28hrs and moves on to specials at Murayat and Misfah North from 10.01hrs and 10.29hrs, respectively.
The three stages will be repeated in the afternoon at 12.47hrs, 13.20hrs and 13.48hrs, before the finishing ceremony brings proceedings to a close at the OAA from 16.00hrs.
2015 Oman International Rally – position after SS7:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Ford Fiesta RRC 1hr 14min 11.2sec
2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Chris Patterson (GBR) Citroën DS3 RRC 1hr 15min 29.8sec
3. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Marshall Clarke (GBR) Ford Fiesta RRC 1hr 15min 54.6sec
4. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta RRC 1hr 17min 45.3sec
5. Salah bin Eidan (KWT)/Vili Oslaj (SVN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1hr 23min 00.9sec
6. Saif Al-Harthy (OMN)/Salim Al-Abry (OMN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1hr 30min 21.0sec
7. Mansoor Bel Helai (ARE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (ARE) Citroën DS3 R3T 1hr 33min 11.5sec
8. Saeed Bintowq (ARE)/Allan Harryman (GBR) Citroën DS3 R3T 1hr 36min 35.1sec
9. Zakariya Al-Ofi (OMN)/Ammar Al-Balushi (OMN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1hr 38min 59.2sec
10. Zakariya Said Ahmed (OMN)/Saif Al-Hinai (OMN) Subaru Impreza 1hr 45min 21.4sec
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For further media information:
English: Neil Perkins, Oman International Rally, International Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases). Twitter: @LordPerkins. Facebook group: MERC
Arabic: Firas Nimri, Oman International Rally, National and Arabic Press Officer, Mobile: + 962 777 282000, E-mail: email@example.com.