MERC Emphatic victory for Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah in Syria
2008 Syrian International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3 of 7
For immediate release
Saturday, June 7th, 2008
QATAR'S AL-ATTIYAH STORMS
TO VICTORY IN SYRIAN RALLY
Sharjah's Al-Qassimi pips Qatar's Al-Marri in thrilling fight for second
Engine woes for Lebanon's Saleh, fourth place for Oman's Al-Shanfari
SEDNAYA (Syria): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson romped to one of the most one-sided victories in the history of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, when they won 12 of the 13 special stages of the 8th Syrian International Rally, which finished in Sednaya on Saturday.
The defending regional champions began the final day almost four minutes in front of their nearest rivals and produced another masterclass performance over the fast gravel stages that make the Syrian event one of the most challenging in the Middle East. Their winning margin was a staggering 5m 20.7s.
"It was a fantastic rally for me and the team," said Al-Attiyah. "I felt comfortable from the start and never felt under any pressure. We needed this win to keep the lead in the championship and give me more confidence with the new car. Now we go to Lebanon, where I would dearly love to beat the local favourite Roger Feghali on his home rally. I will try my best."
Sharjah's Abdullah Al-Qassimi won a fascinating battle for second position with Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri, after the pair had been separated by just 0.1 seconds after the ninth stage. Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari finished fourth and 20-year-old Cypriot rookie Nicos Thomas rounded off the top five on his first ever desert rally.
Twenty-three of the original 32 starters began day two, although Al-Attiyah was in no mood to take risks over the closing six stages, where Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rajhi had nothing to lose and planned the big attack. Nicos Thomas and Nick Georgiou were hoping to bounce back from first day punctures, while Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari eventually restarted in fourth place after his erroneous sixth stage time had been corrected and he had pushed Thomas down to fifth. Syria's Haitham Al-Yousefi was unable to continue from 10th place when his engine failed to start at Deir Ateyah.
Al-Attiyah was again the fastest through the 20.5km eighth stage and extended his lead to 4m 18.9s, as Al-Qassimi and Al-Marri maintained second and third positions and Al-Shanfari consolidated fourth. But Lebanon's Michel Saleh endured a miserable stage: he dropped 15 minutes wedged in a hole after missing a junction and then joined team mate Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum on the list of retirements when the engine expired on the subsequent road section. His misfortune promoted Kuwait's Salah Bin Eidan and Lebanon's Nick Georgiou to sixth and seventh places.
Al-Rajhi's intended push up the leader board petered out after the eighth stage; he had dropped over two minutes with mechanical problems before withdrawing at the end of the special when he was spotted receiving outside assistance.
Al-Attiyah's lead was extended to 4m 27.2s through Mrah, as Al-Marri managed to nip in front of Al-Qassimi and take second position by just 0.1 seconds. The remainder of the top 10 held station heading into the punishing Nabk special.
Al-Attiyah noticeably eased his pace through Nabk and still set the fastest time, as Al-Qasimi regained second position by beating Al-Marri by 24 seconds. Georgiou set the third fastest time and began to apply the pressure on Eidan for sixth place. He trailed the Kuwaiti by 36.1 seconds with three stages remaining.
Al-Attiyah was in cruise control through the 11th stage and saw his lead stretched to 5m 05s, as Al-Marri reduced Al-Qassimi's hold on second position to 22.9 seconds, with a mere second separating the podium-placed drivers. Dubai-based Syrian Yazan Rijleh his trouble in the stage and lost his 20th position.
The Qatari again set the pace through Mrah 2 to extend his advantage to 5m 14.3s and Al-Qassimi edged a further 3.6 seconds in front of Al-Marri to tighten his hold on second overall. The remainder of the top 10 were a sufficient distance apart for the leaderboard to appear settled heading into the final 26.27km of Nbak. Al-Qassimi confirmed the runner-up spot by setting the second fastest time in the Nabk stage, as Al-Marri eased off to secure six points and maintain his title challenge. Bin Eidan lost two minutes in the final kilometres and slipped behind Georgiou and into seventh place.
The event also hosted the first international appearance of the Abu Dhabi Junior Rally Team, with Mansour Al-Suwaidi and Bader Al-Jabri taking part in the second day in their M-Sport Ford Fiestas. Majed Al-Shamsi had been the early pace setter but sump damage had also caused terminal engine problems and he was forced to withdraw on Friday. Al-Jabri eventually moved ahead of Al-Suwaidi, who suffered delays on the eighth stage, as both drivers gained vital experience under the guidance of Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi.
The event attracted support from Hamsho International, Jupeter rent-a-car, the Sheraton Ma'aret Sednaya, Honda, Nissan and Radio Syria Alghad.
Positions after SS13 - end of day two (unofficial @ 15.15 hrs):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 38m 13.6s
2. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Fred Gocentas (LT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 2h 43m 34.3s
3. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 44m 22.6s
4. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM)/Daniel Barritt (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 45m 56.1s
5. Nicos Thomas (CY)/Andreas Christodoulides (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 2h 46m 55.3s
6. Nick Georgiou (RL)/Joseph Matar (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 2h 48m 48.0s
7. Salah Bin Eidan (KWT)/Michael Morrissey (IRL) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 50m 18.4s
8. Mohammed Hamsho (SYR)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 56m 19.6s
9. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KWT)/Fares Al-Thafiri (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 3h 00m 52.9s
10. Faris Hijazi (HKJ)/Emad Juma (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 3h 01m 12.7s
FIA Middle East Rally Championship - positions after round 3 (unofficial):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 28 pts
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 19 pts
3. Nicos Thomas (CY) 14 pts
4. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM) 12 pts
5. Nick Georgiou (RL) 9 pts
6. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 8 pts
7. Michel Saleh (RL) 7 pts
7. Salah Bin Eidan (KT) 7 pts
9. Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 6 pts
10. Faris Hijazi (HKJ) 3 pts
11. Ahmad Al-Kuwari (QA) 1 pt
For further media information:
Lutfi Estwani, Arabic Press Officer, Tel: + 963 11 232 3706, Fax: + 963 11 231 2785, Mobile: + 963 93234445
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, International Press Officer, Syrian International Rally, Syria mobile: + 963 967 627862, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)