Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah equalls one of the longest standing records
QATAR’S AL-ATTIYAH EQUALS BEN SULAYEM’S LONG-STANDING MERC RECORD WITH VICTORY IN OMAN
Qatar’s Al-Kuwari finishes second; Abu Dhabi Racing’s Al-Qassimi in third
Kuwait’s Salah bin Eidan confirms regional Group N Championship title
Saif Al-Harthy and Hamid Al-Qasmi reach finish for the host nation
MUSCAT (Oman): Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah has equalled one of the longest standing records in world motor sport. A comfortable victory in the 23rd Oman International Rally on Saturday earned the Qatari a 60th rally win in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship and meant that he drew level with the number of wins set by Dubai’s Mohammed Ben Sulayem between 1984 and 2002.
Al-Attiyah, partnered by French co-driver Matthieu Baumel and driving a Ford Fiesta RRC, eased his pace over the final six gravel special stages to record victory by the margin of 48.5 seconds. But it was a comprehensive fifth win in Oman nonetheless for the recently crowned 11-time regional champion and topped an extraordinary season where he has also won the Dakar Rally, the WRC 2 Championship and the FIA World Cup.
“I made a big gap yesterday and decided to ease my pace today to avoid taking any risks,” said Al-Attiyah. “The stages today were much rougher and one puncture could have been very costly. It’s fantastic to win here over such testing and scenic special stages. The win is certainly a milestone and what a perfect finish to the season it could be if I could go to Dubai and set a new record of 61 wins.”
Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and British navigator Marshall Clarke pushed on over the final day and managed to overhaul Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi to take second overall and give Qatar a 1-2 finish. The result also makes Al-Kuwari the strong favourite to finish as runner-up in the championship.
“One of the targets for the season was to finish in the top two in the championship for the sake of my sponsors and supporters and we are on track to achieve that goal,” said Al-Kuwari. “It was a good day today for me with four stage wins and second place is fantastic.”
Al-Qassimi complained about suspension issues and was not able to push his Citroën DS3 RRC to the limit, but he and Ulster’s Chris Patterson rounded off the podium places. Khalid Al-Suwaidi and Giovanni Bernacchini are preparing for a full assault at next year’s ERC and MERC and they bonded well to finish fourth in their Ford Fiesta RRC.
Kuwaiti Salah Bin Eidan confirmed the Group N Championship in Oman with Slovenian co-driver Vili Oslaj. With the non-appearance of Edith Weiss and the early retirement of Meshari Al-Thafiri, it was a formality for the delighted Kuwaiti driver, who reached the finish in fifth overall, despite losing several minutes on the penultimate stage.
Emirati driver Mansoor Bel Helai headed Abu Dhabi Racing team-mate Saeed Bintowq in the two-wheel drive contest. The Citroën DS3 R3T drivers reached the finish ramp in sixth and seventh overall.
Saif Al-Harthy and Salim Al-Abri were the leading Omani duo in eighth, despite losing over 24 minutes two stages from the end. Qatar’s Rashid Al-Naimi and Italian co-driver Nicola Arena finished ninth and the second local team of Hamid Al-Qasmi and Mohammed Al-Mazroi rounded off the top 10 after losing ninth place on the penultimate stage.