Qatar International Rally 2012 Day one as it happened
27.01.2012: Qatar International Rally
2012 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1
Al-Attiyah led the 16-car field into the opening 15km Mekaines stage and laid down
Qatar International Rally
2012 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 1
Al-Attiyah led the 16-car field into the opening 15km Mekaines stage and laid down the gauntlet with a target time of 8m 14.7s, but Al-Kuwari nipped inside the defending champion’s time by just 0.3s in the flying Mini S2000. Al-Hajri slotted into third in front of Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah and Khalid Al-Suwaidi, as Qatari drivers filled the top five places.
Qatar’s Jaber Al-Marri succumbed to turbo-related engine problems in the stage and Kuwait’s Meshal Al-Nejadi, who had dropped over two minutes to the leaders in the special, retired on the road section to stage two with engine damage.
The 23.65km run through the Salwa stage was next on the agenda and Al-Attiyah upped his pace a little and pushed his new Peugeot 207 S2000 to a comfortable fastest time to take the initiative. He beat nearest rival Al-Hajri by 29.1s to storm into a 31.2s overall lead. Al-Kuwari was suffering from differential problems.
Burcu Cetinkaya was in superb form and the seventh fastest time catapulted the Turkish girl into a similar position in the overall standings, as Kuwait’s Fahad Ashknani broke his front suspension and Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah retired with damaged steering.
Al-Kuwari pulled two seconds back on Al-Attiyah through the 26.15km third stage, but Al-Hajri suffered a flat tyre and dropped four vital minutes to the leaders. Al-Attiyah duly reached service at Al-Wakra with a 1m 42.4s advantage over Al-Kuwari in what was developing into a one-sided contest.
“I had to take it very easy because we pushed the left-front strut through the Peugeot’s body work just 5km into the first stage. I didn’t want to make a fuss about it in case the other drivers found out and tried to push even harder,” said Al-Attiyah. Unbeknown to the leader, Al-Kuwari had endured differential problems in any case.
Cetinkaya stormed into a sensational third place, but Misfer Al-Marri fell by the wayside in the third stage with reported suspension issues. Kuwait’s Essam Al-Nejadi and Lebanon’s Nick Georgiou rounded off the top five.
A repeat of the three stages was on the agenda on Friday afternoon. Al-Attiyah’s overall lead grew still further before the restart after Al-Kuwari was awarded a three-minute penalty for a morning route violation. The defending champion beat Al-Kuwari by 5.1s on the re-run of Mekaines and his overall lead over Khalid Al-Suwaidi grew to 4m 27.1s, with Georgiou, Al-Kuwari, Cetinkaya separated by just two seconds in third, fourth and fifth overall.
Al-Kuwari sensationally hit the front again after the fifth stage when Al-Attiyah was forced to stop and was unable to change a tyre with the resultant loss of five minutes. The Mini driver set his third fastest time and duly took a 29.3s lead into the last stage of the day. Georgiou held third by a mere 3.3s from Cetinkaya, but Al-Hajri was unable to complete the penultimate timed test.
Sensationally, Al-Attiyah was unable to make the start of the final stage of the day, where Al-Kuwari drove in a measured pace to confirm his overnight lead. Reported front suspension problems accounted for Essam Al-Nejadi. The day’s drama and high rate of attrition has guaranteed a fascinating showdown over Saturday’s remaining six special stages.
Teams tackle a further three special stages on Saturday, repeated twice, in the Nabat Lusail, Umm Al Hal and Wakrah areas of Qatar, with servicing of the cars centralised at the Al-Wakrah football stadium.
The first 17.10km Nabat Lusail special kicks off at 08.48hrs and the event is scheduled to finish at the QMMF in Salwa Road, Doha, from 15.35hrs.
2012 Qatar International Rally – positions after SS6 (unofficial @ 16.30hrs):
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