MERC First stage agony for Oman's Hamed Al-Wahaibi at the Qatar Rally
Qatar International Rally
2022 FIA Middle East Rally Championship – February 10th-12th
For immediate release
Friday, February 11th, 2022
FIRST STAGE AGONY FOR OMAN’S HAMED AL-WAHAIBI AT THE QATAR RALLY
• Meeke, Østberg and Al-Attiyah locked in three-way duel at the top
LOSAIL (QATAR): Omani rally driver Hamed Al-Wahaibi suffered the ignominy of first stage technical issues at the 43rd Qatar International Rally on Friday morning.
Facing one of the strongest fields ever assembled for a round of the 2022 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, the Omani vowed to attack from the outset in his Motortune-prepared Škoda Fabia R2 evo. He was true to his word through the opening Eraida stage, held in the deserts to the north of Losail, but he left the designated track early in the special and clouted the underside of the car, the impact damaging the Fabia’s radiator.
The 53-year-old and his New Zealand co-driver Tony Sircombe pressed on regardless, with no indication from the car’s control panel that the radiator was leaking water. The Omani managed to card the seventh quickest stage time, despite his issues, but stopped after the stage to inspect the damage and faced the harsh realisation that the radiator had leaked out and damaged the engine.
A disappointed Al-Wahaibi said: “I lost the road about four times. The first time I lost it over a jump, I went straight. I couldn’t see it. I hit a bump and we damaged the radiator and we continued and lost the road again. We didn’t have a warning to the end of the stage. We were leaking, leaking, leaking. That’s what happened. I guess it’s not meant to be. Maybe I need a more cautious recce and notes.”
WRC stars Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg and Qatari hero Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah were locked in a fascinating duel for supremacy after three of the event’s 12 gravel special stages. Meeke won two of the morning’s tests to hold a 9.2-second lead.
Young Omani rally driver Abdullah Al-Rawahi held sixth overall with Jordanian navigator Ata Al-Hmoud in his Škoda Fabia R2 evo.
On Saturday, teams tackle a further two loops of three graded gravel stages in the north of Qatar. Action gets underway with the 14.50km Al-Waab stage between Al-Mashrab and Umm Al-Qahab. The longer Umm Birka (24.54km) stage follows and precedes a 21.33km at Ras Laffan.
Competitors then return to the Losail Circuit for a regroup and service before the three specials are repeated in the afternoon. The post-event press conference and podium ceremony will then take place at the Losail Circuit on Saturday evening.
For further information: contact Ameen Jarrar, Marketing and PR, Oman Rally Team, Tel: +968 9543 9859.