AL-ATTIYAH TAKES THIRD SUCCESSIVE VICTORY IN QATAR RALLY

17.04.2005: AL-ATTIYAH TAKES THIRD SUCCESSIVE VICTORY IN QATAR RALLY

2005 Mitsubishi Qatar International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 4 of 9

Late puncture and ball joint damage thwart Al-Qassimi's challenge; UAE's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum takes third place

DOHA (Qatar): Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson took a third successive victory in the Mitsubishi Qatar International Rally, round four of the 2005 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, after 10 timed special stages in the boulder-strewn deserts around Doha this weekend. They now hold a 16-point lead in the FIA regional series with five events to run.

Al-Attiyah and Patterson began the final four stages, north of Doha, a mere 56.8 seconds ahead of the UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr in their Power Horse-sponsored Subaru Impreza WRX STi. The UAE's Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum held third position in another SBK Group Subaru.

A repeat of each of the Tinbak and Jeri Masad stages was on the agenda and Al-Qassimi had planned to make in-roads into the overnight leader's advantage over the notoriously rough terrain. Al-Attiyah extended his lead by two seconds over the opener, but he damaged the steering near the start of SS8 and Al-Qassimi managed to whittle the lead down to 27 seconds with a mere two stages remaining.

"I began SS8 with a lead of 59 seconds, but we bent the Subaru's steering near the start of the stage and had to drive to the finish with a damaged car," said Nasser. "I dropped 32 seconds."

With two stages remaining Al-Qassimi was running ahead of Al-Attiyah through the early part of the stage, but he sustained a flat tyre and that all but settled the contest in the Qatari's favour. Only a repeat run through the Jeri Masad stage stood in Al-Attiyah's way and he clung on to take a fourth successive regional triumph. Al-Qassimi damaged a ball joint in the final stage and handed the runners-up spot to Al-Maktoum.

"I am delighted to have won my home event again," said Nasser at the finish in Losail. "It was not an easy rally and Khalid made sure that I was under pressure all the time."

"I gave it my best shot and showed that we are closing on Nasser's pace this year," said a disappointed Al-Qassimi. "Now I must go to Jordan and make sure that we keep up the pressure on him and try and take a win there."

Suhail Khalifa Al-Maktoum eventually finished second overall, well clear of Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah in third in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7. Oman's Nizar Al-Shanfari finished his first championship event of the season in fourth, after Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri hit gearbox trouble before the penultimate stage.

Former regional champion Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi finished in fifth -albeit one second behind - and Jordan's Amjad Farrah became the firstregistered driver to benefit from the SupeRally regulations. He restarted in ninth place this morning after suspension problems on Friday and managed to take three championship points for his efforts.

Mike Ziegler and Yousef Al-Kuwari succumbed to mechanical problems on the first stage this morning and Kuwait's Essam Al-Nejadi failed to make the restart in his Proton Wira. Lebanon's Michel Saleh dropped back with turbocharger problems after running as high as sixth place on Friday.

Additional support for the Mitsubishi-backed event came from NK Portakabin, Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Automobiles Company, QNB and the Losail circuit.

This year's event marked the first time that the FIA's SupeRally regulation had been officially imposed on a round of the regional series. It will also be applied again in three weeks time when the competitive action resumes with the Jordan International Rally, round five of the championship, which is bidding to become the Middle East's first ever round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Positions after SS10 (unofficial top 6 @ 13.40 hrs):

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2h 24m 08s

2. Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE)/Ahmad Ghaziri (RL) SubaruImpreza WRX STi 2h 33m 58s

3. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Mitsubishi LancerEvolution 7 2h 40m 10s

4. Nizar Al-Shanfari (OM)/Michael Michaelakis (CY) Mitsubishi LancerEvolution 7 2h 44m 21s

5. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Mitsubishi LancerEvolution 8 2h 44m 22s

6. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Khaled Zakaria (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 2h 45m 10s

FIA Middle East Drivers' Championship positions after round 4 of 9:

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 40 pts
2. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 24 pts
3. Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum (UAE) 20 pts
4. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA) 13 pts
5. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 9 pts
5. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA) 9 pts
5. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 9 pts, etc

FIA Middle East Co-Drivers' Championship positions after round 4 of 9:

1. Chris Patterson (GB) 40 pts
2. Michael Orr (GB) 16 pts
3. Ahmed Al-Ghaziri (RL) 16 pts
4. Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) 14 pts
5. Killian Duffy (IRL) 10 pts
5. Steve Lancaster (GB) 10 pts
7. Adel Hussein (QA) 9 pts, etc

Manufacturers

1. Subaru 40 pts
2. Mitsubishi 32 pts
For latest Qatar Rally live results go to: www.nersresults.co.uk  

Neil Perkins, 2005 Mitsubishi Qatar International Rally Press Officer, NDPPublicity Services

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/Qatar-Rally-Al-Attiyah---1654.html

17.04.2005 / MaP

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