Nasser wins Troodos Rally and claims 2003 FIA Middle East title
2003 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 5 of 6
For immediate release
Sunday, November 2nd, 2003
QATAR'S AL-ATTIYAH WINS MIDDLE EAST
TITLE WITH VICTORY IN TROODOS RALLY
FIA Super 1600 title for Kuwait's Al-Nejadi
NICOSIA (Cyprus): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and British co-driver Steve Lancaster clinched the FIA Middle East Rally Championship for the first time by winning the two-day Troodos Rally in Cyprus at the weekend.
Their win on the Nicosia-based penultimate round of the series means that they cannot be caught on the final round in Dubai in December, even if closest rival Andreas Tsouloftas wins in the deserts of the UAE. In the event of a tie-break Al-Attiyah has won more rallies than the Cypriot, who finished second overall on his home event this weekend in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6.
The event attracted 30 starters from an original entry of 41, but only 15 cars reached the finish in Nicosia after 13 special stages in a total route of 849 kms, of which 230 kms were competitive.
Al-Attiyah led from the start in his Ken Skidmore-prepared Subaru and was beaten on only one stage in the entire rally. That was when he launched the Impreza off the road and the car sustained front and rear end damage. Despite a further time penalty for late arrival at a time control and the onset of heavy rain during the final day, Al-Attiyah's advantage was enough to see him through to take the title and victory in Cyprus by 6m 32s.
Rami Shiohatovitch was third overall in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 and Cypriot Chris Armeftis finished fourth in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8. Nicos Antoniades completed the top five in a Subaru.
Lebanon's leading driver Roger Feghali was forced out before the first stage, when high seas prevented a ship from Beirut docking in Larnaca on time for his car to undergo technical formalities and reach the official timed start. Saudi Arabia's Farouk Ghurab suffered the same unfortunate fate.
The runner-up spot in the regional series will now be decided on the final round in Dubai. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi was unable to enter the Troodos Rally following the Syrian International Rally.
The legality of the UAE driver's Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 was protested by the Qatar Rally Team in Damascus and, after a lengthy and costly strip down in the UAE by an FIA official, it was deemed to be fully legal. Unfortuntely for Abdullah it could not be rebuilt in time for the Troodos Rally and the former Group N champion will now go head-to-head with Tsouloftas in Dubai.
Kuwait's Meshal Al-Nejadi clinched the FIA Super 1600 title in his Citroen Saxo. With one event remaining, he cannot be caught by his closest Lebanese rival Ziad Karanouh.
Troodos Rally (positions after final stage):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRC 3h 40m 46.5s
2. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY)/Savvas Laos (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 3h 47m 18.2s
3. Rami Shiohatovitch (CY)/Michael Michalakis Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 3h 58m 46.1s
4. Chris Armeftis (CY)/Mario Constantinou (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 4h 02m 31.1s
5. Nicos Antoniades (CY)/George Economides (CY) Subaru Impreza 555 4h 03m 09.9s
Overall drivers' positions after round 5 of 6
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 36*
2. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY) 26
3. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 22
4. Roger Feghali (RL) 10
5. Abdo Feghali (RL) 8, etc
*denotes 2003 Champion
Group N positions after round 5 of 6
1. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 28
2. Sheikh Khaled Al-Qassimi (UAE) 16
3. Hamad Al-Sowaidi (QA) 12
3. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 12, etc
FIA Super 1600 Cup
1. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KT) 30
2. Ziad Karanouh (RL) 16
3. Ramez Al-Farra (SYR) 10
3. Asem Aref (HKJ) 10