NASSER RETAINS MIDDLE EAST TITLE AFTER SIXTH SUCCESSIVE DUBAI RALLY VICTORY
Qataris pull off championship 1-2-3 as event sets new standard for regional rallying
Dubai, UAE, 1st December 2012: Qatar’s Nasser Al Attyah still reigns supreme in the Dubai International Rally and the FIA Middle East Championship following another emphatic win over UAE National Day weekend.
After an incident-packed first leg marked by torrential rain, the premature retirement of one of the leading challengers, and ultimately a series of time penalties imposed on most of the field, the sun came out to shine on Al Attiyah’s sixth successive victory parade in Dubai.
Needing only a top-five finish to seal his eighth FIA Middle East title, the Qatari led from start to finish in his Ford Fiesta RRC partnered by Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini.
He completed today’s (Saturday) second leg with a 3 mins 38.9 secs winning margin over the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi who was promoted from third place after Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al Kuwari made an agonising exit with mechanical problems on the rally’s last special stage.
Partnered by Irish co-driver Killian Duffy in a Mini JWC RRC, Al Kuwari lost four minutes at the start of the stage and eventually came to a grinding halt as a result of a broken alternator. Despite the setback, he finished runner-up in the championship.
Giving the UAE another place on the podium, Rashid Al Ketbi took his Ford Fiesta RRC to third place, finishing another 5 mins 47.4 secs adrift of Al Qassimi.
Fourth place in Dubai for 2010 Middle East champion Misfer Al Marri meant a Qatari 1-2-3 in this year’s FIA regional series.
The top six in Dubai was completed by another Qatari, Khalid Al-Suwaidi, and the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, who had a much better day in his Ford Fiesta RRC. Forced to retire mid-way through the first leg after two punctures, the double Dubai Rally winner had the consolation of being one of only two drivers to beat Al Attiyah on a special stage.
Taking advantage of the super rally option to re-start on the second leg with heavy time penalties, Sheikh Khalid won the third of today’s (Saturday) stages. His brother, Sheikh Abdullah, was fastest on the last of event’s 12 stages.
Finishing eighth overall, the dashing Turkish all ladies crew of Burcu Cetinkaya and Cicek Guney were the leading Group N finishers in a Mitsubishi Evo IX.
Celebrating at the finish, Al Attiyah said: “It feels really great to win here again in Dubai and take the overall Middle East Rally Championship crown. I always love racing here and it’s a great way to end the season.”
Over the years the Dubai Rally has played a key role in the Middle East Championship as its deciding round, and this time the event set a new standard through the use of a sophisticated tracking system designed to carry the regional series forward.
It identifies any deviation of the route, and those competitors straying off line by more than the 10-metre legal limit are identified and penalised.
With a series of time penalties being imposed at the end of the first leg, Sheikh Abdullah and Al Ketbi were relegated one place each to third and fourth respectively at the start of the second leg.
Even Al Attiyah picked up a 30 second time penalty, although the new system, tested successfully in Dubai for the first time and to be used across the championship next season, has been widely welcomed by drivers as a positive step to ensure fairer and more equal competition.
“I think it works very well and is great for the championship moving forward,” confirmed Al Attiyah. “It is important for all drivers to respect the system, and many are not entirely aware when they are cutting corners and what effect it has. Even I was guilty in this rally.”
Dubai International Rally provisional results
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Giovanni (QAT / ITA) / Ford / Fiesta RRC / GP2 2:08:40.8
2. Abdulla Al Qassimi / Steve Lancaster (UAE / GBR) / Ford / Fiesta RRC / GP2 2:12:19.7
3. Rashid Al Ketbi / Khalid Al Kendi (UAE / UAE) / Ford / Fiesta RRC / GP2 2:18:07.1
4. Misfer Al Marri / Nicola Arena (QAT / ITA) / Mini / JCWRRC / GP2 2:20:11.4
5. Khalid Al-Suwaidi / Nick Beech (QAT / GBR) / Ford / Fiesta RRC / GP2 2:24:00.3
6. Khalid Al Qassimi / Scott Martin (ARE / GBR) / Ford / Fiesta RRC / GP2 2:24:27.6
7. Alaa Rasheed / Joseph Matar (JOR / LBN) / Ford / Fiesta RRC / GP2 2:24:41.9
8. Burcu Cetinkaya / Cicek Guney (TUR / TUR) / Mitsubishi Evo IX / GPN4 2:32:55.8
9. Nassib Nassar / Rony Maroun (LBN / LBN) / Mitsubishi / Evo III / GPN4 2:46:50.4
10.Dinesh Deheragoda / Sanjaya Roshan (LKA / LKA) Mitsubishi Evo / GPN4 2:48:09.4
2012 FIA Middle East Rally Championship standings
1 Nasser Al Attiyah (QAT) 93pts
2 Abdulaziz Al Kuwari (QAT) 52pts
3 Misfer Al Marri (QAT) 51pts
4 Sh Abdulla Al Qassimi (UAE) 42pts
5 Khalid Al Suwaidi (QAT) 35pts