Rally: Al Qassimi primed for battle with Al Attiyah in Kuwait International Rally
Abu Dhabi, 22 March, 2013: The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is primed for another great battle with Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah in the Kuwait International Rally today (Saturday) to decide the second round of this year’s FIA Middle East Rally Championship.
At the end of yesterdays first leg on completion of five special stages sweeping through Kuwait’s southern sand flats, Al Attiyah in his Ford Fiesta RRC led by 41.3 seconds from Al Qassmi in the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team DS3 RRC.
Spearheading a four-car Abu Dhabi Racing Challenge, Al Qassimi was trailed by the WRC2 winners from the last two World Rally Championship events this season, Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al Kuwari and Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi, holding third and fourth places in Ford Fiestas.
While Al Attiyah was happy to carry his advantage into the second leg, he could not ignore the threat from Al Qassimi who planned to step up his challenge over the remaining six stages leading to the finish tomorrow afternoon.
Returning to Kuwait for the first time since winning the event three years ago, the UAE driver has been looking for a repeat of the opening day in Qatar where he started the first round of the FIA Middle East series by claiming the overnight lead from Al Attiyah.
A second day puncture cost him his chance of victory on that occasion, but a similar misfortune for Al Attiyah on the second leg could see Al Qassimi secure a first win in the Middle East Championship for Abu Dhabi Racing.
“We got a little lost in the middle of the first stage when we hesitated at one of the corners, which cost us time,” said Al Qassimi, partnered by British co-driver Scott Martin. “Stage two was better, and we fought back in stage three to take second overall which was nice.
“We needed better traction going forward so at service we made a change. After that I was much happier with the way things went, so we are in a good position to make the most of it tomorrow.”
While Al Qassimi fought to keep the pressure on Al Attiyah, the three young Emirati drivers also competing for Abu Dhabi Racing in Kuwait each gave a good account of themselves on a day when stage five was cancelled because of camels wandering close to the rally route.
Mohammed Al Mutawaa led team-mate Mohammed Al Sahlawi in the 2WD Class, and both did well to finish the day ahead of a cluster of Group N cars in 15th and 16th positions respectively out of 24 starters.
Lying second in Group N after the opening round of the championship, Bader Al Jabri, accompanied by French co-driver Nicolas Klinger in a Subaru Imprezza, was holding 12th place overall and fourth in the production class before a mechanical problem forced him out on the final stage of the day. He was looking to take advantage of the super rally regulation to re-start the second leg.
Provisional leading positions after 1st leg:
1. Nasser Al Attiyah/Giovanni Bernacchini (Qat/Ita) Ford fiesta 51:51.2
2. Khalid Al Qassimi/Scott Martin (UAE/GBR) Abu Dhabi Citroën DS3 RRC 52:32.5
3. Abdulaziz Al Kuwari/Killian Duffy (Qat/Irl) Ford Fiesta 52:49.2
4. Yazeed Al Rajhi/Michael Orr KSA/GBR) Ford Fiesta 53:33.4
5. Abdullah Al. Qassimi/Steve Lancaster (UAE/GBR) Ford Fiesta 54:36.2
5. Khalid Al Suwaidi/Nicola Arena (Qat/Ita) Ford Fiesta 54:50.7
7. Seed al Mouri/Amr Refai (KSA/KSA) Mini Cooper 56:09.4
8. Msuod Al Saleh/Sulaiman Al Helal (Kwt/Kwt) Ford Fiesta 57:36.0
9. Mshari Al Thefiri/Mobarak Al Thefiri (Kwt/Kwt) Mitsubishi Evo 9 59:25.4
10. Abdulla Al Kuwari/Khalid Al Kendi (Qat/UAE) Mitsubishi Evo 10 59:32.1