AL QASSIMI RISES TO THE OCCASION AS CYPRUS VICTORY GIVES AL ATTIYAH MIDDLE EAST TITLE —
Nicosia, Cyprus 13th October, 2013: The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi produced a tenacious drive to claim second place in the Cyprus Rally today as Nasser Al Attiyah secured victory to capture his ninth FIA Middle East Championship title.
After a series of problems on the previous day had effectively ended his hopes of a first win on the Mediterranean island, Al Qassimi had to show all his fighting qualities to climb from third position overnight alongside co-driver Scott Martin in their Abu Dhabi Citroën Total DS3.
The Emirati driver reached the finish back in the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, 2min 51.8 secs away from Al Attiyah’s Ford Fiesta, having won a spectacular day-long battle with another Qatari, Abdulaziz Al Kuwairi, edging him out by 4.7 seconds for the second podium spot.
That finish had looked in doubt when, early on the day’s first of eight special stages, Al Qassimi suffered a puncture and had to drive with caution for the next 11kms.
By the end of the stage, however he had overhauled Al Kuwairi who punctured on the same section, and then spent the rest of the day trying desperately to catch the Abu Dhabi Citroën.
But while Al Qassimi had no hope of blocking Al Attiyah’s path to victory after his mechanical and dust problems on the previous leg, the Abu Dhabi Racing driver stayed calm under pressure to strengthen his grip on second place in the championship. He will now try to round off the debut season for Abu Dhabi Racing next month by beating the Qatari to score a third career victory in the Dubai International Rally, the final round of the Middle East series.
Al Qassimi had reached the service halt on completion of the day’s first loop of four special stages to say: “We started the first stage with good momentum but then after 3km we hit a rock on the side of the road and that left us with a flat front right tyre.
“I had to take it easy on the left corners to prevent the tyre sliding off the rim. But after yesterday’s problems we made some changes overnight and started with the car feeling much better today.
“I’m seeing a lot of lines from the two cars in front of me that look a bit dangerous to take. But if I don’t take them I lose a lot of time. The question is, do you take the risk, and that’s what’s going on in my head right now.”
Earlier in the day it had emerged that Al Attiyah had gone perilously close to going out of the rally on Saturday’s last of eight special stages when his car hit a rock that had been pulled out of the ground on the racing line. The impact broke the sump guard, cross member and steering rack, and at one point retirement looked possible, but the Qatari survived to reach the service park where the damaged parts were replaced.
Cyprus Rally provisional results:
1. Nasser Al Atiyah / G. Bernacchini QAT/ITA Ford Fiesta RRC 2:35:17.6
2. Shk Khalid Al Qassimi / S.Martin UAE/GBR Abu Dhabi Citroen DS3 RRC 2:38:09.4
3. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari / K.Duffy QAT/IRE Ford Fiesta RRC 2:38:14.1
4. Misfer Al Marri / N.Arena QAT/ITA Ford Fiesta RRC 2:45:16.9
5. Costas Georgiou / E. Pieri CYP/CYP Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX 2:48:23.9
6. Kyriacos Kyriacou / C.Aristidou CYP/CYP Subaru Impreza 2:51:08.1
2013 FIA Middle East Rally Championship standings after 5 of 6 rounds:
1. Nasser Al Attiyah 118pts
2. Sh. Khalid Al Qassimi 69pts
3. Abdulaziz Al Kuwari 57pts
4. Roger Reghali 43pts
5. Sh. Abdulla Al Qassimi 30pts