MERC Qatar's Al-Attiyah hits cruise control after day one of Jordan Rally

Jordan Rally
2017 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 2

For immediate release
Friday, May 5th, 2017


· Second-placed Jordanian Marouf Abu Samra moves well clear in MERC 2
· Exhaust issues cost Khaled Juma; third place for Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri

DEAD SEA (JORDAN): The fastest time on all 10 special stages enabled Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French navigator Matthieu Baumel to extend their overall lead in the FIA Jordan Rally to a comfortable 7min 32.1sec on Friday evening.

The 12-time regional champion’s new Ford Fiesta R5 Evo 2 never missed a beat over some of the most spectacular graded rallying terrain in the FIA calendar and the 10-time event winner was flying high at the lowest place on earth.

“Steady, steady today,” said Al-Attiyah. “No risks, no mistakes, just drive the new car and stay safe. On the stage, in Suwayma, I tried to go flat out so see if I could beat the time I set in the stage last year in the Skoda and I had the same time to the second…”

The all-Jordanian crew of Marouf Abu Samra and navigator Malik Hariri earned a comfortable advantage in MERC 2 and held second overall at the end of the day in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Abu Samra had been embroiled in a tight tussle with Khaled Juma until his rival damaged his Mitsubishi’s exhaust and lost three minutes putting out a small fire before the midday break.

Juma recovered strongly over the second loop of stages. He passed Saudi Arabia’s Rakan Al-Rashed to regain fourth overall and began to make in-roads into Meshari Al-Thefiri hold on third position. Only 50.1 seconds separated the pair at the end of the leg and Juma will be aiming for the last podium place on Saturday.

Kuwait’s Essam Al-Nejadi held sixth position and Salem Al-Thefiri and Asem Aref were eighth and ninth overall behind Jordan’s Ihab Al-Shorafa heading into a final stage that accounted for both Essam Al-Nejadi with overheating issues and Al-Rashed with gearbox problems. This promoted Salem Al-Thefiri to sixth place behind Al-Shorafa. Aref holds seventh place.

Ahmad Shaban lost nearly 10 minutes in the dark on the super special stage on Thursday evening, but a string of impressive stage times catapulted the Jordanian into contention for victory in the 2nd National Rally. He trailed overnight leader Salaman Al-Gammaz by 2min 58.3sec. Ziad Miqdad was a distant third.

The event is running thanks to a huge national effort supported by the Jordanian Government and its security and safety services.

It is also being supported by the private sector with the Hilton Dead Sea Resort & Spa, Dead Sea Touristic & Real Estate Investment (Samarah), Vestel, CCI – Creative Concepts Industries, Radio Hala and Bliss FM all playing a key part.

Friday – as it happened

A hectic schedule of 10 special stages was planned for Friday with two loops of five stages spit by a return to the Dead Sea for service at midday. The 16.85km of Panorama, under the shadow of the legendary Mount Nebo and overlooking the Dead Sea and the West Bank, was first on the cards.

Al-Attiyah clocked a time of 12min 44.9sec and extended his advantage to 1min 07.1sec in the opener and added a further 28 seconds to that lead in Syagha. Abu Samra and Juma were locked in a duel for MERC 2 supremacy; a mere 3.8 seconds split the pair after two stages. Juma redressed the balance in Rama and the quickest time pushed Juma into a 3.4-second lead.

After the first runs through Bahath and Suwayma and the return to the Dead Sea for the midday regroup, Al-Attiyah had extended his advantage to 3min 40.1sec.

The talking point had been the tussle between Juma and Abu Samra in MERC 2; but Juma stopped for three minutes in Bahath after losing a section of exhaust pipe that caused a small fire. Abu Samra reached the midday point with a lead of 1min 35.6sec over Meshari Al-Thefiri, despite clouting the section of Juma’s exhaust pipe that damaged a front brake.

Salameh Al-Ghammez and Nasser Khanfar were locked in a tight duel in the National Rally until Khanfar hit trouble in the sixth stage and retired.

Al-Attiyah eased his pace over the second loop and still recorded a quintet of stage wins to reach the night halt with a lead of 7min 32.1sec. As Abu Samra consolidated second position and the MERC 2 lead, Juma continued to eat into Al-Thefiri’s hold on third.

He beat the Kuwaiti by seven seconds in Panorama 2 and 22.4 seconds in Syagha 2. The lead was reduced by a further 10 in Rama 2 and Juma headed into the last two stages of the day chasing down a 48.6-second deficit. But there was misery for both Essam Al-Nejadi and Rakan Al-Rashed on the final stage of the day.

Tomorrow (Saturday), there are two loops of three gravel special stages and the action culminates with a second run through the two-kilometre Samarah super special at 17.17hrs. The day includes passes through the Shuna, Jordan River and Baptism site specials, with the 31.01km of the notorious Jordan River test returning to the schedule after an absence of several years.

2017 FIA Jordan Rally – positions after SS11 (unofficial 16.05hrs):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Ford Fiesta R5 Evo2 1hr 28min 54.1sec
2. Marouf Abu Samra (JOR)/Malek Hariri (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1hr 36min 36.2sec
3. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1hr 39min 17.4sec
4. Khaled Juma (JOR)/Emad Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1hr 40min 07.5sec
5. Ihab Al-Shorafa (JOR)/Yousef Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1hr 52min 06.9sec
6. Salem Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Ahmed Al-Khatib (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 2hr 11min 44.8sec
7. Asem Aref (JOR)/Musa Djiyerian (JOR) Renault Clio 2hr13min 06.5sec

2017 2nd Jordan National Rally – positions after SS11:
1. Salamah Al-Gammaz (JOR)/Feisal Al-Gammaz (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V 1hr 54min 29.7sec
2. Ahmad Shaban (JOR)/Shadi Shaban (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI 1hr 57min 28.0sec

Neil Perkins, News and Information Officer, 2017 Jordan Rally, Jordan Rally Media Service, Wadi Rum Hall Media Centre, King Abdullah Bin Talal Convention Centre by Hilton, UK mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@gmail.com and halhassan@joc.jo. Twitter: @LordPerkins. Facebook Group: MERC

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Date issued: 05/05/2017

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