MERC Sixth successive Qatar Rally win for Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah
2008 NBK Qatar International Rally
2008 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1
For immediate release
Saturday, January 26th, 2008
NASSER AL-ATTIYAH CLINCHES SIXTH SUCCESSIVE
VICTORY IN NBK QATAR INTERNATIONAL RALLY
Second place for Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri; Khalifa Saleh wins frantic tussle for third
Fourth for Kuwait’s Saleh Bin Eidan; Gearbox woes for Jordan’s Amjad Farrah
DOHA (Qatar): The Arab world’s top rally driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson claimed a start-to-finish victory in the NBK Qatar International Rally, round one of the 2008 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, on Saturday.
Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri and Ulster co-driver Stephen McAuley finished runners-up and Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel were third to make it a one-two-three for the host nation on the two-day rally in the deserts to the north of Doha.
“It is a great feeling to win my home rally again,” admitted Al-Attiyah, who won 11 of the 16 gravel special stages on his way to a sixth successive win in his home event. “The new car was fantastic. I did not want to push too hard, because we do not have many spare parts. But the new Subaru feels responsive, quicker and handles better than the older model. It’s great to start the new season with a win.”
Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah and Baumel became embroiled in a fierce tussle with Kuwait’s Salah Bin Eidan and Irish co-driver Michael Morrissey over the closing four stages for third position. Bin Eidan had a five seconds advantage after 12 timed tests, but his Qatari rival edged four seconds ahead in SS13, only to see his lead reduced to 2.4s with two specials remaining. The final podium place eventually fell to the Qatari on the last two stages.
Lebanon’s Michel Saleh claimed fifth position and crucial championship points, while Oman’s Nizar Al-Shanfari and Jordanian Faris Hijazi were sixth and seventh overall. Qatar’s Ahmed Al-Kuwari, Jordan’s Faris Bustami and UK-based Nick Georgiou rounded off the top 10.
The event was organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) under the presidency of Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah. “I would like to thank the FIA senior officials for their very favourable comments about our event this year, which has been compared to the best ever held in the GCC, “said a delighted Al-Attiyah. “We had around 250 marshals on the stages and I would like to thank each one of them for their support. We have worked very hard on this rally and, maybe, we are reaching a level where we could look at the WRC in the future…”
Al-Attiyah headed into the final eight special stages on Saturday with a 2m 41.1s lead over Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah, with Misfer Al-Marri a mere seven seconds behind. All but four of the 28 entrants restarted leg two, with first day retirements Ahmed Al-Sabban and Yazeed Al-Rajhi slotting into 19th and 20th positions out of the 24 surviving cars.
Al-Marri was fastest through the opening 8km Thakira stage, which included a spectacular sprint through the shallow waters of the Arabian Gulf overlooked by spectators standing on a scenic cliff face. He duly moved to within 4.1 seconds of second-placed Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah, although Nasser retained a 2m 38.6s lead. Kuwait’s Mufeed Mubarak completed the stage, but stopped after the finish with differential problems.
Al-Marri was again fastest in the 10th stage and gained second place when Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah lost three minutes with a puncture after passing through the water. Nasser maintained a 2m 29.9s lead, as Yazeed Al-Rajhi survived a collision with a large stone and Farrah stopped with terminal gearbox trouble. “I feel very happy with my pace,” admitted Al-Marri. “Nasser is a very fast driver and to be on his pace is perfect for me.”
Al-Marri continued his string of fastest times through the Laffan stage, but Al-Attiyah hit back with the quickest time in Al-Khor to take a 2m 28.9s overall lead back to the Losail service park. Qatar’s Nasser Al-Kuwari was forced out of the event in the 11th stage and was joined by Kuwaitis Meshari Al-Sabti and Shaker Al-Raies.
With a repeat run through the four stages remaining, Bin Eidan had sneaked ahead of Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah, when the Qatari sustained a second puncture. Michel Saleh was up to fifth and the Jordanian duo of Faris Hijazi and Faris Bustami were sixth and seventh. SupeRally runners Nizar Al-Shanfari and Ahmed Al-Kuwari were eighth and ninth and Britain’s David Scialom rounded off the top 10.
“I gained places this morning by being sensible,” said Michel Saleh. The water was deep and quite dangerous if you were stupid. I tried to keep to the edge, because there was mud and it was a better line.”
Nineteen surviving teams were able to benefit from hindsight for the repeat of the watery Thafira stage and Al-Attiyah extended his overall lead to 2m 43.1s with the fastest time and Khalifa Saleh edged 4.6s ahead of Bin Eidan and into third position. The defending regional champion was again dominant in the 14th stage, as Bin Eidan pegged Al-Attiyah’s hold on third place back to just 2.4 seconds. But the Qatari won the penultimate stage by 10 seconds to set up the podium celebrations.
Positions after SS16 – end of leg 2 (unofficial):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX N14 2h 16m 50.6s
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Stephen McAuley (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 20071 2h 20m 09.0s
3. Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 2h 24m 32.9s
4. Salah Bin Eidan (KT)/Michael Morrissey (IRL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9 2h 24m 48.6s
5. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ahmed Ghaziri (RL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2006 2h 27m 23.7s
6. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM)/Ieuan Thomas (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 35m 24.3s
7. Faris Hijazi (HKJ)/Emad Juma (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 2h 36m 24.8s
8. Ahmed Al-Kuwari (QA)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 2h 36m 57.4s
9. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Burhan Abu Khoura (HKJ) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2005 2h 37m 26.1s
10. Nick Georgiou (GB)/Joseph Mattar (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 2h 40m 03.6s
FIA Middle East Rally Championship – positions after round 1 (unofficial):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 10 pts
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 8 pts
3. Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 6 pts
4. Salah Bin Eidan (KT) 5 pts
5. Michel Saleh (RL) 4 pts
6. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM) 3 pts
7. Faris Hijazi (HKJ) 2 pts
8. Ahmad Al-Kuwari (QA) 1 pt
1. Chris Patterson (GB) 10 pts
2. Stephen McAuley (GB) 8 pts
3. Emad Juma (HKJ) 6 pts
4. Burhan Abu Khoura (HKJ) 5 pts
5. Joseph Mattar (RL) 4 pts
6. Anwar Al Sharah (KT) 3 pts
7. Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) 2 pts
8. Steve Lancaster (GB) 1 pt
For further information:
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, Chief Press Officer, 2008 Qatar International Rally, Losail International Circuit, Media Centre, Doha, Qatar, Tel: + 974 4729620, Fax: + 974 4729621, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)