Attiyah sets early pace at Jordan Rally - GulfToday

Attiyah sets early pace at Jordan Rally


Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah steers his car during the opening leg of the Jordan Rally on Friday.

Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah cruised into a massive lead of 8min 32.1sec after an opening leg of six gruelling special stages of the Jordan Rally that were held in punishing heat and decimated the field on Friday.

The Qatari and his Andorra-based co-driver Matthieu Baumel were never troubled in any of the speed tests and were able to manage their pace after gaining a comfortable lead on the opening loop of three specials held in the Dead Sea and Mount Nebo areas of the Hashemite Kingdom.

Attiyah said: “It was a good morning. We tried to push the first two stages. The other driver have some problems, punctures, but it is not an easy rally even for the experienced drivers. We know these nice roads. We have a good lead and now we try to manage.

“The second loop was good. It was not easy and a lot of big rocks on the second stage. We managed without any problems. Now we just need to finish.”

Kuwait’s Meshari Al Thefiri was the Volkswagen Polo GTi driver’s closest challenger and the second-placed Mitsubishi Lancer man secured an overnight advantage of 40.8 seconds in the MERC2 category.

Alex Feghali, the son of 14-time Rally of Lebanon winner Roger, finished the leg in third and second in MERC2 after a morning tussle with Oman’s Abdullah Al Rawahi and closed in on Al Thefiri as the day progressed.

“The second loop was much better for us,” said Feghali. “We gained 15 seconds on Meshari. We have some problems with the diff, but we will push tomorrow and try and get second.”

Rawahi was sidelined with engine issues after overheating at the end of the first loop. “We had a puncture on the rear on the first stage, and then another one on the longer second one,” said the disappointed Omani. “It was really tough. I guess the rubber from the tyre cut a bit of the pipe on the radiator and we got a bit of a leak. The car over heated but we only knew after the third stage. It stopped. We managed to get back to service but the compression was low on the engine and we could not continue.”

Leading Jordanian Shadi Sheban held fourth overall and claimed victory in the opening round of the Jordan National Rally Championship. Round two will be held over Saturday’s stages.

Lebanese driver Shadi El Fakih was classified in fifth in his Mitsubishi and Qatar’s Nasser Khalifa Al Atya overcame two time-consuming punctures and heat exhaustion to hold sixth in a Ford Fiesta.

After engine issues sidelined the defending champion Henry Kahy, local driver Asem Aref adapted his strategy to conserve his Renault Clio RS and survived the day to lead MERC3 and hold eighth. “It was really difficult the second time around,” said Aref.

“More stones, so we had to be very slow. We were two minutes slower than the morning.”

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