Qatar: Al Qassimi pips Al Attiyah in opening of Super Special Stage in Qatar

Giovanni Bernacchini and Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah with QMMF president Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah at the start of the QMMF Qatar International Rally.

Thursday, February 20th, 2014-DOHA (Qatar): The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson pipped Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini by seven-tenths of a second to the fastest time in the first 2.27km timed super special stage of the 2014 QMMF Qatar International Rally, held near the Sheraton hotel on Doha Corniche, on Thursday evening.

The opening round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship attracted 19 starters from Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Spain, Germany and Jordan. Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, UAE driver Khalid Al-Qassimi and the in-form Saudi Yazeed Al-Rahi are likely to be the front-runners when the meat of the action gets underway on Friday.

After completing their timed reconnaissance of the special stages on Tuesday and Wednesday, teams passed through pre-event technical checks at the QMMF on Thursday morning before many of the drivers attended the afternoon’s pre-event press conference.

Defending champion Al-Attiyah has been racing in the Porsche GT3 Cup Middle East since finishing third in the Dakar Rally in January. “I am quite happy to try other things, but it’s nice to be back at this event. I have won 10 times and I suppose that makes me the favourite, but it will not be easy. Driving very fast is not the way to win this rally. I am committed to the Middle East Championship and know that it is important to do well here.”

Al-Rajhi was upbeat about his chances: “so far it’s been a great month and I hope it can continue. This rally is hard on the cars. Normally punctures are an issue and the driver who is careful and does not get flat tyres can be the winner.”

“If anything the stages are slightly smoother than last year and the new one is quite nice,” said Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, winner of the event in 2012. “Even so, this is Qatar and the nature of the terrain means that there are always stones to watch out for and there is a constant risk of punctures. I want to win this rally. I know that Nasser will push hard, but I want to be there and make sure we keep the record intact – only Nasser and I have won this rally since 2002.

Al-Qassimi would love to rewrite the history books and be the first Emirati to win in Qatar since then. “All the times I have come here, I have had a least two flat tyres, said the chairman of Abu Dhabi Racing, which is also running five up-and-coming youngsters in two-wheel drive Citroën DS3s. “One time I had eight punctures, then maybe only two, but this is the key to success here. Last year I was driving very well and taking the fight to Nasser. I hope to do the same again.”

Transportation issues from Europe meant that Saudi Arabia’s Saeed Al-Mouri switched to running a Kuwait-supplied Skoda Fabia S2000 in the days before the start, while Jordanian Ala’a Rasheed was forced to run a Ford Fiesta R5 after his intended RRC was badly damaged by Abdullah Al-Kuwari in a recent national rally in Kuwait.

One third of the entry are tackling the event for the first time, with Spaniard Antonio Troncoco starting his first ever desert rally after running a Renault Clio in Spanish national events.

Tomorrow (Friday), cars tackle three gravel special stages twice to the west of Doha, starting with the first run through the 21.93km Umm Wishah test. The day’s action is split by a regroup and service stop at the Qatar Aqua Park.

2014 QMMF Qatar International Rally – timetable of events

Friday, February 21

09.00hrs Service A, Qatar Aqua Park

09.53hrs SS1 Umm Wishah 1

10.21hrs SS2 Al Shabana 1

10.54hrs SS3 Al-Kharsaah 1

12.14hrs Regroup and Service B, Qatar Aqua Park

13.22hrs SS4 Umm Wishah 2

13.50hrs SS5 Al Shabana 2

14.23hrs SS6 Al Kharsaah 2

15.23hrs Service C, Qatar Aqua Park

 

Positions after SSS – 2.27km:

1. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Chris Patterson (GBR) Citroën DS3 1min 54.8sec

2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta RRC 1min 55.5sec

3. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Ford Fiesta RRC 2min 02.3sec

4. Saleh Bin Eidan (KWT)//Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Ford Fiesta R5 2min 03.6sec

5. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Michael Orr (GBR) Ford Fiesta RRC 2min 04.6sec

6. Saeed Al-Mouri (SAU)/Amr Refai (SAU) Skoda Fabia S2000 2min 05.6sec

7. Abdullah Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Nicola Arena (ITA) Ford Fiesta R5 2min 06.6sec

8. Ala’a Rasheed (JOR)/Joseph Matar (LBN) Ford Fiesta R5 2min 09.3sec

9. Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (ARE)/Craig Parry (GBR) Citroën DS3 2min 11.7sec

10. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Fahad Al-Mutairi (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 2min 11.8sec

11. Mohamed Al-Mutawaa (ARE)/Stephen McAuley (GBR) Citroën DS3 2min 12.7sec

12. Masoud Al-Saleh (KWT)/Sulaiman Al-Helal (KWT) Ford Fiesta R5 2min 14.2sec

13. Mansoor Bel Helai (ARE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (ARE) Citroën DS3 2min 16.3sec

14. Juma Al-Falaisi (ARE)/John Higgins (IRL) Citroën DS3 2min 22.6sec

15. Saeed Bintowq (ARE)/Allan Harryman (GBR) Citroën DS3 2min 23.4sec

16. Antonio Troncoco (ESP)/Toufic Karkoutli (SYR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII 2min 40.1sec

17. Hitmi Khalifa Al-Hitmi (QAT)/Kamal Khoder (QAT) Subaru Impreza N12 2min 53.2sec

18. Edith Weiss (DEU)/Antoine Salem (LBN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 2min 53.6sec

19. Nada Zaidan (QAT)/Maja Loncar (CRO) Subaru Impreza N12 3min 24.0sec

 For live results and tracking:

http://www.qmmf.com/index.php?page=qatar-international-rally

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