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2011 KUWAIT INTERNATIONAL RALLY, March 10-12, 2011


 

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah secured his fourth outright rally victory of the season and his 40th career win on a round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), when he and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini sealed a one-sided triumph in the rain-lashed Kuwait International Rally on Saturday.

 

At the wheel of an Autotek Ford Fiesta S2000, Al-Attiyah won 11 of the 12 desert special stages on the two-day rally to extend his advantage in the regional series to an unofficial 14 points. Bernacchini recorded his 11th victory in the MERC as the pair sealed a winning margin of 4m 26.4s.

 

“The conditions were difficult today and it was important not to make a mistake,” said Al-Attiyah. “The goal was the win and 25 championship points and I tried my best and it all went according to plan.”

 

The UAE’s Rashid Al-Ketbi and Khaled Al-Kendi upped their pace on day two in a new Skoda Fabia S2000 and finished in a comfortable second position. Kuwait’s Mufeed Mubarak was handed a 10-minute time penalty before the restart on Saturday morning and Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and British co-driver Steve Lancaster were the main beneficiaries.

 

The Emirati, a multiple former regional Group N champion, maintained a steady pace over the closing six special stages to seal the final podium position and maintained second place in the Drivers’ Championship.

 

Mubarak climbed back to fourth on the second loop of three stages to push Jordan’s Mazan Tantash down to a career-best fifth position in his Subaru Impreza.

 

Ammar Hijazi slipped to sixth in his Skoda Fabia S2000 and maintained his good start to the season. Kuwaiti drivers Essam Al-Nejadi, Meshal Al-Nejadi and Meshari Al-Thafiri and Lebanon’s Michel Saleh rounded off the top 10. Meshal lost a substantial amount of time with suspension issues.

 

The event was organised by the Kuwait International Automobile Club (KIAC) in co-operation with the Kuwait Quarter Mile Club. It ran under the chairmanship of Sheikh Duaj Fahad Al-Duaj Al-Sabah, chairman of the higher organising committee of the KIAC, and the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the deputy prime minister for development affairs and chairman of the Kuwait Olympic Committee.

 

Day two

 

Eight of the 18 starters finished day one and were joined by seven drivers returning under the SuperRally ruling. Eid Falah was unable to restart after his day one engine issues. Heavy rain continued to fall on the rain-soaked desert to make on-stage conditions hazardous to say the least.

 

Mubarak had been awarded a 10-minute time penalty on Friday evening for a route violation and his demise promoted Al-Qassimi to third and the Jordanian duo of Tantash and Hijazi to fourth and fifth.

 

Al-Attiyah began where he left off on Friday by winning the seventh Jaber Al-Ahmad stage by 6.1 seconds to extend his advantage over Al-Ketbi to 2m 51.2s. Al-Ketbi had promised to push harder on the second’s day special stages and he was a man of his word through the Jahrah special where he recorded his first stage win to reduce Al-Attiyah’s lead to 2m 39.2s.

 

Despite suffering ‘flu symptoms, Al-Qassimi was driving cautiously and maintained a solid third position in his Ford Fiesta S2000 on a stage where a resurgent Mubarak set the second fastest time.

 

Al-Attiyah regained 11.3 seconds in the ninth stage and reached the midday service with a lead of 2m 50.5s. Abdullah Al-Hajri had restarted under SupeRally, retired for the second time on the ninth stage with transmission woes and the numbers of surviving cars was reduced to 14. All the crews complained about poor visibility and the tricky nature of the stages in the appalling conditions.

 

Al-Attiyah extended his lead to 3m 01.6s in the 10th stage on a stage where Mubarak benefited from delays for Hijazi to climb to fifth in the overall standings. Al-Attiyah was noticeably slower on his second run through the penultimate stage as well but he still extended his lead to a flattering 4m 04.9s.

 

There were no major dramas for the Qatari over the closing kilometres and he reached the finish with a comfortable cushion to extend his advantage in the regional rally series heading to the Jordan Rally next month.

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