Rally: History made as Qatars Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah confirms 14th MERC title with seventh win in Kuwait

Rally: History made as Qatars Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah confirms 14th MERC title with seventh win in Kuwait


ARIFJAN (KUWAIT): Record-breaking Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah confirmed a 14th FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) title with a dominant victory in the 25th Kuwait International Rally at Kuwait Motor Town on Saturday afternoon.

-Al-Thefiri and Kahy celebrate their respective MERC 2 and MERC 3 titles

The Qatari’s seventh win in Kuwait and his 69th career MERC win (68 rally wins) secured the record-breaking 14th regional title by the margin of 12min 19.2sec.

Al-Attiyah now has the record for the number of MERC titles to himself after FIA official Jerôme Roussel examined the archives recently and confirmed that the 1989 regional series had been cancelled because only three rallies had taken place (*see footnote below) and Dubai driver Mohammed Ben Sulayem had actually won 13th official championship titles.

Al-Attiyah’s French co-driver Matthieu Baumel secured his third regional title and his 17th MERC event win to move ahead of John Spiller and into third in the regional Hall of Fame behind Ronan Morgan, Chris Patterson and Giovanni Bernacchini. The success also marked an astonishing 15th regional title in 16 seasons for Ken Skidmore’s Autotek Motorsport operation, which also guided the late Misfer Al-Marri to the title in 2010.

“This a fantastic result for me and the whole team after another excellent season,” said Al-Attiyah. “To break the long-standing record is very satisfying. There have been many memories along the way and many battles with some great drivers. Now we can look to the future and pushing ahead with more records of our own.”

Kuwaiti driver Meshari Al-Thefiri and Nasser Al-Kuwari began the day in second overall and the local star drove at a measured pace to confirm his fourth MERC 2/Group N title in the regional series. Victory in his home event continues to elude the Mitsubishi driver, however. His father Ahmed Al-Thefiri remains the only Kuwaiti national ever to win the event – at the wheel of a Datsun Violet before the MERC was formed back in 1981.

Meshari Al-Thefiri

Lebanon’s Henry Kahy and Jordanian navigator Musa Djiyerian celebrated the driver’s first MERC 3 title success in a two-wheel drive Škoda Fabia, although the category win secured a second successive series triumph for his navigator – Musa had co-driven fellow Jordanian Asem Aref to the title in 2017. The duo reached the finish in seventh overall.

Lebanon’s Henry Kahy and Jordanian navigator Musa Djiyerian

Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah hadn’t taken part in an MERC event since the 2007 Dubai International Rally, but the former QMMF President and FIA Vice-President acclimatised to the tricky conditions with aplomb. Despite missing out on points for finishing the opening leg because of a differential issue, he and Italian navigator Nicola Arena bounced back to round off the podium positions.

Vojt?ch Štajf’s missed out on the regional title, but the Czech has enjoyed an impressive debut season in the regional series and pushed Al-Attiyah hard on some stages. He has already secured the runner-up spot in the championship and rewarded his mechanics’ hard work on Friday afternoon with a solid fourth-placed finish in his Škoda Fabia R5.

Friday’s stages decimated the field and all but three teams returned to action under the Rally 2 ruling. Jordanian driver Khaled Juma reached the finish in fifth position and Oman’s Abdullah Al-Rawahi overcame his misfire issues to finish sixth in the sole Subaru Impreza.

Soft sand pushed Qatar’s Rashed Al-Nuami down to 10th position after as many stages and he retired before the start of the second loop. The Jordanian duo of Ihad Al-Shorafa and Shabi Shaban rounded off the finishers in eighth and ninth overall.

The Kuwaiti pairing of Jassim Al-Muqahwi and Tamer Al-Mutairi were not eligible for the FIA event, but they pedalled their Mitsubishi to the National category win and would have been fourth overall in the international.

This year’s event was organised by the Basil Salem Al-Sabah Motor Racing Club (BMRC) under the chairmanship of Sheikh Athbi Nayef Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and in conjunction with the General Authority for Sport and the Kuwait International Automobile Club (KIAC). Zain Kuwait was the main sponsor.

Saturday – as it happened

The remaining six special stages took place in the southern deserts. Action got underway with the 11.88km of the Bnader special. Štajf had fallen by the wayside on Friday with a broken damper, but the Czech mechanics did a superb job to keep his title hopes alive and the R5 was repaired in time for the restart.

Al-Attiyah had still not secured the title. He started the day with a 39-point lead over his rival, but his Autotek team were fully aware that the Qatari needed to complete the second leg to win the championship. A non-finish would keep the door open for Štajf, provided he too could reach the end of the final stage and Parc Fermé.

Al-Attiyah began the day with a lead of 8min 03.9sec and extended that to 8min 47.4sec with the fastest time of 7min 39.5sec on the opener. Štajf lost his way on the special and his delay enabled Al-Thefiri and Oman’s Abdullah Al-Rawahi to set the second and third quickest times. Kahy safely negotiated the special but slipped from third to sixth overall when all the Rally 2 entrants returned to the rankings.

The Julai’a stage ran for 13.03km and the Qatari romped to a ninth successive fastest time to increase his lead to 9min 13.3sec. Štajf consolidated his hold on fourth place with the second fastest time and Al-Nuami moved in front of  fellow Rally 2 runner Ihab Al-Shorafa to snatch ninth.

The 17.42km of Arifjan was the last stage before the return to Kuwait Motor Town and a time of 11min 10.4sec enabled Al-Attiyah to return to service with a lead of 9min 48.9sec. Rashed Al-Nuami became bogged down in soft sand, lost around 10 minutes and plummeted to 10th position.

Al-Attiyah said: “No problems this morning, we are just managing the pace. Three stages to go. The conditions are similar to yesterday. The visibility is not that clear.”

Al-Thefiri’s co-driver Nasser Al-Kuwari said: “All good for us, except we had a damaged tyre after the second stage and we changed it before Arifjan.”

The three stages were repeated in the afternoon. Al-Attiyah was three seconds slower on his second run through Bnader, but it was a trouble free run for the Qatari. The leading quintet held station in the overall rankings heading to the re-run of Julai’a, but a charging Al-Rawahi pushed Kahy down to seventh place, while Al-Nuami failed to restart after the lunch halt.

There were no major dramas on the penultimate stage and Al-Attiyah held on to seal the title and his seventh win in Kuwait, as Al-Thefiri and Kahy wrapped up the MERC 2 and 3 titles.

The 2018 MERC reaches a conclusion with the Manateq International Rally of Qatar on November 15-17.

2018 Kuwait International Rally – positions after SS13 (unofficial @15.50hrs):

  1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Ford Fiesta R5                1hr 58min 24.8sec
  2. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X                2hrs 10min 43.8sec

  3. Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Nicola Arena (ITA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X                2hrs 26min 28.3sec

  4. Vojt?ch Štajf (CZE)/Ladislav Ku?era (CZE) Škoda Fabia R5                                    2hrs 29min 30.7sec

  5. Khaled Juma (JOR)/Emad Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X                         2hrs 40min 21.3sec

  6. Abdullah Al-Rawahi (OMN)/Ata Al-Hmoud (JOR) Subaru Impreza                      2hrs 49min 39.7sec

  7. Henry Kahy (LBN)/Musa Djiyerian (JOR) Škoda Fabia                                          2hrs 57min 43.4sec

  8. Ihab Al-Shorafa (JOR)/Yousef Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX                        3hrs 00min 03.5sec

  9. Shadi Shaban (JOR)/Tarek Al-Taher (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX                        3hrs 07min 22.6sec


2018 Kuwait National Rally – positions after SS13 (unofficial @15.50hrs):

  1. Jassim Al-Muqahwi (KWT)/Tamer Al-Mutairi (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII          2hrs 26min 47.7sec


2018 FIA Middle East Rally Championship – positions after round 4 (unofficial):

  1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)                                                    146pts
  • Vojt?ch Štajf (CZE)                                                                      93pts

  • Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)                                                      59pts

  • Roger Feghali (LBN)                                                                      38pts

  • Khaled Juma (JOR)                                                                      32pts

  • Christos Demostheous (CYP)                                                     25pts

  • Rodolphe Asmar (LBN)                                                        24pts

  • Henry Kahy (LBN)                                                                      21pts

  • Eddy Karam (LBN)                                                                      19pts

  • Alexandros Tsouloftas (CYP)                                                     19pts

  • Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QAT)                                    19pts

  • Ihab Al-Shorafa (JOR)                                                     17pts

  • Ahmed Shaban (JOR)                                                      16pts

  • Savvas Savva (CYP)                                                                         15pts

  • Costas Zenonos (CYP)                                                   12pts

  • Rony Kanaan (LBN)                                                                      11pts

  • Abdullah Al-Rawahi (OMN)                                                  11pts, etc


    2018 FIA MERC 2 – positions after round 4 (unofficial):

    1. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)                                                      117pts
  • Khaled Juma (JOR)                                                                      49pts

  • Savvas Savva (CYP)                                                                      37pts

  • Ihab Al-Shorafa (JOR)                                                                     33pts

  • Costas Zenonos (CYP)                                                                   30pts

  • Ahmed Shaban (JOR)                                                                      25pts

  • George Englezou (CYP)                                                  25pts

  • Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QAT)                                    24pts


    2018 FIA MERC 3 – positions after round 4 (unofficial):

    1. Henry Kahy (LBN)                                                                      127pts
  • Rony Kanaan (LBN)                                                                      39pts

  • Panayiotis Xenophontos (CYP)                                     37pts

  • Asem Aref (JOR)                                                                      30pts

  • Matthias Njeim (LBN)                                                                        30pts

  • Constantinos Televantos (CYP)                                     30pts

  • Zacharias Manoli (CYP)                                                       23pts


    2018 FIA MERC Junior Championship for Drivers – positions after round 4:

    1. Matthias Njeim (LBN)                                                        39pts


    In 1989, Mohammed Ben Sulayem won one of the three rallies in Kuwait and took second places in Qatar and Dubai behind Saeed Al-Hajri and the late Björn Waldegård. Two-thirds (66.6%) of the events needed to take place in the 1989 FIA regulations for the series to be validated.

    Three rallies in Jordan, Oman and Lebanon were actually cancelled that year for different reasons and only 50% of the events taking place meant that the series was officially cancelled. This was declared in an FIA bulletin issued at the time.

    There have now been 209 MERC rallies since the series’ inception in 1984. Mohammed Ben Sulayem claimed 60 wins from 103 events between 1984 and the end of 2002 and Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah has now won 69 (MERC) rallies from 106 between 2003 and 2018. Ben Sulayem did not tackle a full MERC programme in 1992, 1993 and 1995.


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    8 hrs ago


    Throwing it back to the #Moto2 race of the #BritishGP 2012 🇬🇧

    Enjoy the last laps battle for the 2nd place between Marquez and Redding! ⚔️

    ... See Less

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    I was there.....Brilliant racing!!

    Very drunk day but remember the race. Loved watching Scott race. All packed and ready for Silverstone Thursday morning.

    Fantastic battle 👍

    I was there, great finish. Home crowd went wild when Redding got back in front, then deadly silent when Marquez had a look up inside on last bend, then wild again when Redding cut back across. Amazing stuff!

    Awesome pictures!


    Very cool video MotoGP. More like this one please!!!

    however Mac Marquez with his current performance does not have to be Marquez's best

    Great performance by Pol & Scott at the end💪🏼..that was a cracker💥..

    Very nice

    Very nice

    All these guys are big talents. Many riders like Pol Espargaro, Alvaro Bautista, Bradley Smith, Antony West & many more are great riders and capable of winning championships ( capable ). People underestimate these guys by their bad results, but really..top material is key in these classes, especially in the MotoGp class. Give them a solid ride and they'll blow your mind

    Redding never got the ride he deserved.

    2019, #93 is the winner..😋🏁

    special suter chassis for marc and mysterious team 😉 after marc step up to motogp, this team directly disappear, nobody know where are they now.

    Just shows how good Redding was but never really got the bike to really take it to them in Motogp.

    Man, I miss Scott Redding in the padock "let's get it babi"

    Muy buena carrera no apta para cardíacos 🤭🤭🤭

    Forget just how good Redding could have been with a decent bike

    now whrs redding? gone?


    Nice to see maq battle for other place than 1st

    Kaj mu je pa SCOTT REDDING naredil,šale in kape.😀

    Bring back Redding

    duel one on one in the final lap marquez lose .....

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    11 hrs ago


    The dramatic moment which cost Marc Márquez a shot at victory at Silverstone two years ago! 😱

    The world champion's misfortune opened the door for Andrea Dovizioso to snatch the win! 💨

    #BritishGP 🇬🇧
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    Good Day all.

    Encore! Encore! Do it again!

    Unlikely to be repeated! Hope Dovi brings his A game though. 👍🏼👍🏼

    Gave the rest a chance

    So what's new?? Sometimes these kind of technical failures happens in Motorsport... Very rare that engine blow sky high to premier class bike.

    Saya Mie Halim moh top fan sama sama

    I love coming here and waiting for all the Yellow gob smokers.

    I thought "the legend" was gonna win that day.. 😅

    Was at this race, and that bike blowing up was almost as good as a Rossi win 😀

    RAre footage for sure

    Ah, I could watch that Honda blow up all day every day...

    Alex Groenewold finger cross 😅👍.. voor komend weekend

    #MM93 Come Back STRONGER! 💪💪💪😎👍👍👍

    Fast forward >>>> he is the world champion!!



    And finaly , the boss MM93 won the title one more time

    Nothing can stop him not even a broken bike ! Simply the king of MotoGP !

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    13 hrs ago


    Cue the celebrations, Bob! 🍾👏 ... See Less

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    “As you can see, I’m a bit high mileage” - 😂 - Bob’s funny! What a lucky guy - I’d give my right arm to work for F1❗️

    ( •_•) ( >💎 oh! Preciosa insignia! /︶\

    Must be an awesome feeling..I certainly Would love to work with f1 even if it was to clean a window.

    Nice. Long time lots of great words over the years

    Awesome to get behind the scenes!

    I love the voice of that guy

    Cheers to the great Bob!!!

    Amazing. I remember this voice. Thanks.

    More than 660 wow ! I mean that’s amazingly nice, being with the next generation sharing your experience & catching something new from them it’s a nice way. Good going Bob keep it up & don’t forget to change the baton when you still can... 👍

    It’s nice to now be able to put a name/face to the voice. Keep up the good work Bob. 🎤 🔈

    Bobs Brilliant we love Bob in our house 👍🏻

    Love these little insights into the F1 community 👍

    Amazing with the “carmen opera” music

    Awesome to put the face to the voice.

    Hey I’m a top fan again, but it is really cool to put a face to the voice. I never really thought about it till I saw this

    Big respect for Bob cheers 🍾🍾

    I now have proof of what he does when he goes away. He is my legend

    I should celebrate with champagne too after being promoted to top fan for god knows what reason 😂

    Finally we get to see the man! 🙌🏻

    I always wondered who did the podium announcements and if it was done locally or in England. 👍

    Thanks for the Top Fan position!

    Never seen the man behind the legendary announcements !

    Wait, what if he is the meow guy! 😆

    Always wondered who did the podium announcements and now we can put a face to the voice

    660 races and counting .....give Bob some champaaaaaaaagne!! 🍾🍾

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