Attiyah dominates Jordan Rally

Attiyah dominates Jordan Rally

Champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah with Prince Feisal Al-Hussein.

By Neil Perkins

DEAD SEA, Jordan — Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah was in devastating form to completely dominate the FIA Jordan Rally in his new Autotek-run Ford Fiesta R5 Evo 2. The 12-time regional rally champion won all the special stages for the second successive year and reached the finish at the Dead Sea with a winning margin of 16min 09.3sec.

It was the perfect result for the Qatari and French navigator Matthieu Baumel after their retirement in round one in February and keeps the Qatari in the hunt for a 13th title, despite the fact that he still trails Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri by seven points in the unofficial championship standings. The victory was Al-Attiyah’s 64th in MERC history; Baumel has now taken 13 as a co-driver.

“The car was fantastic, no issues at all and I was able to control my pace and take no risks,” said Al-Attiyah. “The future of this championship is important to me.”

The all-Jordanian crew of Marouf Abu Samra and navigator Malik Hariri returned to the Jordan Rally for the first time since 2014 and settled in superbly, despite only running a brief pre-event test on the old Turki stage. They produced an impressive career-best performance to seal second position and victory in MERC 2.

Abu Samra’s feat marked the first time in 36 years that a Jordanian driver had finished second in the Jordan Rally — the late Nabil Dirani completed the event behind Lebanon’s Michel Saleh at the wheel of a Renault 17 Gordini in 1981.

Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri began the event in strong contention for both the MERC and MERC 2 titles and third overall did the Mitsubishi Lancer driver’s chances no harm at all. He now leads the MERC 2 Championship outright by an unofficial 21 points and heads to Cyprus as the outright MERC leader.

Khaled and Emad Juma closed the gap on the Kuwaiti over the closing stages on Friday afternoon, after overcoming an exhaust-related fire, but a broken turbocharger for two and a half stages through Saturday morning’s loop cost the Jordanians any chance of snatching a podium finish. They eventually retired with mechanical problems on the second run through Shuna.

Saudi Arabia’s Rakan Al-Rashed used the Rally 2 ruling to regain fifth place after clutch woes and he and Finnish co-driver Jarkko Kalliolepo moved up to fourth at the in his Mahara Racing-run Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX before retiring on the road section to the final stage with fuel pump issues.

Jordan’s Ihab Al-Shorafa and Asem Aref rounded off the FIA finishers in fourth and fifth places after Kuwait’s Essam Al-Nejadi and Salem Al-Thefiri retired their Mitsubishis with mechanical issues after SS13.

Ahmad Shaban rolled out of the 2nd National Rally in the unlucky 13th Jordan River stage and was unable to challenge the eventual runaway winner Salamah Al-Gammaz. The Jordanian reached the finish 13min 04.3sec clear of the father and son crew of former Arabic teacher Ziad Miqdad and his son Hassan. Nasser Khanfar and Burhan Abu Gura were third.

Cars were flagged over the finish podium by Princess Ayah Al-Feisal, the daughter of Prince Feisal Al-Hussein, chairman of Jordan Motorsport.

The event ran thanks to a huge national effort supported by the Jordanian Government and its security and safety services.

It was also supported by the private sector with the Hilton Dead Sea Resort & Spa, Dead Sea Touristic & Real Estate Investment (Samarah), Vestel, CCI – Creative Concepts Industries, Radio Hala and Bliss FM all playing a key part.

The third round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship takes place in Cyprus on June 16-18.