MERC Al-Attiyah starts as favourite to continue winning streak in Jordan
2019 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 2
For immediate release
Thursday, April 25th, 2019
AL-ATTIYAH STARTS AS FAVOURITE TO CONTINUE WINNING STREAK IN JORDAN
· Impressive international field faces 11 gravel special stages on Friday
DEAD SEA (JORDAN): Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah is the clear favourite to take an eighth successive and an unrivalled 13th outright victory in the Jordan Rally when action roars into life with the opening Panorama super special stage of 16.92km, near Mount Nebo, on Friday morning.
At the wheel of his factory-built and Autotek-run Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, the Qatari won all 11 special stages on his home event last month and heads into two days of rallying action in the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley areas having never lost a timed test in the Volkswagen.
Competitors from 10 nations were flagged away from the start at Abdali Boulevard in Amman on Thursday and three of those, in particular, will be trying to hunt down Al-Attiyah and put a stop to his remarkable run of success.
Four-time local champion Marouf Abu Samra (1996, 2001, 2013 and 2014) won the opening round of this year’s Jordan National Championship in a Ford Fiesta R5 run by Motortune and is relishing the challenge of competing against the 48-year-old three-time Dakar winner. Abu Samra teams up with former world ju-jitsu champion Malek Hariri.
Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari shadowed Al-Attiyah to the finish of the opening round in Qatar and he and Marshall Clarke will compete in Jordan with a Škoda Fabia R5 run by FN Speed and MC Racing. The former WRC 2 front-runner was the only driver able to come anywhere near Al-Attiyah’s stage times last month and will be keen to overturn a nine-point deficit in the five-round championship.
Qatar’s Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya finished as the runner-up in the regional series way back in 1993 and returned to action in Kuwait last year. He tackled his home event with Italian navigator Nicola Arena last month and finished fourth overall in a Ford Fiesta R5, the same car that he hopes will guide him to a podium finish on his return to the stages in Jordan for the first time since 1996 – the year that also marked the last time that H.M. King Abdullah II took part in a round of the MERC in an M-Sport Ford Escort.
Reigning champion Meshari Al-Thefiri is the man to beat in the MERC 2 category and the Kuwaiti is looking for a strong start on the 21-stage event this weekend. He was the class of the field in Qatar and finished over 18 minutes ahead of his nearest rival in sixth overall.
Competition will be even more intense in Jordan. Defending National Champion Khaled Juma was third overall in a recent event at the Dead Sea and heads a local contingent that includes Ihab Al-Shorafa and Shadi Shaban.
The Sultanate of Oman will be represented by recent national rally runner-up Abdullah Al-Ruwahi, Zakariya Al-Aufi and Zakariya Al-Amri, while Kuwait’s Saleh bin Eidan returns to action in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution alongside Slovenian navigator Vili Oslaj.
Lebanese rookie Alex Feghali takes his first rallying footsteps outside Lebanon to take part in a Motortune Mitsubishi alongside fellow countryman Ahmad Khaled, while Saudi Arabia’s Said Al-Mouri takes a break from circuit racing and drifting to take part in the event for the first time in several seasons alongside Amr Refai.
Lebanon’s Henry Kahy is the clear favourite to win the MERC 3 category in his Škoda Fabia. Local driver Asem Aref drives a showroom specification Renault Clio and is currently second in the FIA’s two-wheel drive series.
Jordanian drivers Salameh Al-Gammaz, Tareq Al-Taher, Ziad Miqdad, Amjad Anasweh and Sami Fleifel will take part in a national rally running behind the main FIA event.
Support for the event comes from Abdali Boulevard, Mountain Dew, Hala and Bliss FM.
Tomorrow (Friday), crews will tackle two loops of five stages and one pass through a super special stage at the Dead Sea to wrap up the day’s proceedings at 16.57hrs.
Action commences with runs through Panorama (09.56hrs), Syagha, (10.21hrs), Rama (10.52hrs), Bahath (11.18hrs) and a timed test at the Baptism Site (11.56hrs). The five gravel stages are repeated at 13.46hrs, 14.21hrs, 14.42hrs, 15.08hrs and 15.48hrs after a return to the Dead Sea for a regroup and service from 12.30hrs.
2019 Jordan Rally – list of starters (*unofficial)
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Volkswagen Pole GTI R5
2. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
3. Henry Kahy (LEB)/Musa Djiyerian (JOR) Škoda Fabia
4. Asem Aref (JOR)/Faris Al-Tal (JOR) Renault Clio
5. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Marshall Clarke (GBR) Škoda Fabia R5
6. Khaled Juma (JOR)/Emad Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
7. Marouf Abu Samra (JOR)/Malek Hariri (JOR) Ford Fiesta R5
8. Abdullah Al-Ruwahi (OMN)/Ata Al-Hmoud (JOR) Subaru Impreza
9. Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya (QAT)/Nicola Arena (ITA) Ford Fiesta R5
10. Ihab Al-Shorafa (JOR)/Yousef Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
11. Said Al-Mouri (SAU)/Amr Refai (SAU) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
12. Zakariya Al-Aufi (OMN)/Ammar Al-Balushi (OMN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
15. Zakariya Al-Amri (OMN)/Abdullah Al-Amry (OMN) Subaru Impreza STi
16. Saleh bin Eidan (KWT)/Vili Oslaj (SLO) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
17. Shadi Sheban (JOR)/Ameer Nassif (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
18. Ahmad Khaled (LEB)/Dany Kairouz (LEB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII
19. Alex Feghali (LEB)/Joseph Matar (LEB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII
2019 Jordan National Rally – list of starters (*unofficial)
25. Salameh Al-Gammaz (JOR)/Ghaith Wreikat (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V
26. Tareq Al-Taher (JOR)/Samer Issa (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI
27. Ziad Miqdad (JOR)/Husam Jamzawi (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII
28. Amjad Anasweh (JOR)/Mohammed Al-Khatib (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII
29. Sami Fleifel (JOR)/Mohammed Attari (JOR) Renault Clio
2019 FIA Middle East Rally Championship – standings after round 1:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT) 39pts
2. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT) 30pts
3. Hamed bin Eid Al-Thani (QAT) 24pts
4. Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya (QAT) 19pts
5. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QAT) 16pts
6. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT) 14pts
7. Stefano Marrini (ITA) 7pts
8. Rashid Al-Mohannadi (QAT) 4pts
9. Abdulla Al-Kuwari (QAT) 3pts
10. Abdullah Al-Ruwahi (OMN) 1pt
2019 FIA Middle East MERC 2 Championship – standings after round 1:
1. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT) 39pts
2. Stefano Marrini (ITA) 28pts
3. Rashid Al-Mohannadi (QAT) 20pts
4. Abdulla Al-Kuwari (QAT) 18pts
5. Abdullah Al-Ruwahi (OMN) 13pts
6. Ahmad Khaled (LEB) 5pts
2019 FIA Middle East MERC 3 Championship – standings after round 1:
1. Henry Kahy (LEB) 39pts
2. Asem Aref (JOR) 30pts
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