Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah bids to extend MERC lead

Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah bids to extend MERC lead

13.04.2011: ... with 41st series victory in Jordan • Hijazi and Tantash head local Jordanian MERC contingent

... with 41st series victory in Jordan


•         Hijazi and Tantash head local Jordanian MERC contingent

•         Abdullah Al-Qassimi and Rashid Al-Ketbi fly UAE flag in Jordan

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah will be bidding for his 41st MERC victory when he and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini take on 10 other crews in the third round of the regional rally series, which takes place over days two and three of the Jordan Rally on Friday and Saturday.

Al-Attiyah won the first two rounds of the seven-event series in Qatar and Kuwait and, provided that he doesn’t damage his Ford Fiesta S2000 on the first day’s stages - where he is also competing in the SWRC category - he will take a 17-point series lead into the start of the MERC rally.

His closest rival is the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, a former regional Group N champion, at the wheel of a second Ford Fiesta. Al-Qassimi and British co-driver Steve Lancaster are looking forward to the start of the event and Al-Qassimi sees the Jordan Rally as an excellent opportunity to close the gap on the six-time Middle East rally champion.

“I know that Nasser is taking part in the SWR and there is a big risk that he may damage his car on the first day of the rally and suffer as a result in the MERC,” said Sheikh Abdullah.

“I also have a Ford Fiesta and have been getting used to it. It is totally different to drive than the Group N car. It holds more speed into the corners, is better in the braking department and is more stable on the bumpy and twisty terrain. In a straight line, somewhat surprisingly, the Group N car is quicker, but the rev band is narrower on the Fiesta and you have to master the gear change to keep the power to the optimum. Maybe in Kuwait I was losing some time with the gear change. If you don’t get it right, the car can bog down and you lose time.”

Jordanian Ammar Hijazi holds third position in the regional series after round two and represents the host nation at the wheel of a Skoda Fabia S2000. He and Lebanese co-driver Joseph Matar will be hoping to add to their points’ tally on Hijazi’s best ever start to the regional series.

Dubai’s Rashid Al-Ketbi will also be hoping to add to his points’ tally on this crucial round of the MERC. He finished second overall in Kuwait with his Fazza Skoda Fabia S2000 and has the pace to match Al-Attiyah and Al-Qassimi on the demanding special stages around the Dead Sea and Mount Nebo.

Five teams represent the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Running at the head of the field alongside Hijazi will be reigning national champion Mazan Tantash in his Subaru Impreza STi. Completing the line-up of local drivers are the all-female crew of Nancy Al-Majali and Nadia Shnoudeh, Rami Hijazi and Mirza Hatk.

A strong representation of drivers from Kuwait was originally planned, but this has been reduced to just two drivers on the provisional starting list with Essam and Meshal Al-Nejadi representing the country in a pair of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IXs. They currently hold fourth and 10th in the Drivers’ Championship.

Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh completes the regional line-up of drivers, who will tackle 14 of the event’s 20 timed special stages.

The Jordan Rally gets into gear on Thursday morning in Jerash at 10.30am with a ceremonial start. The event is being staged in the Dead Sea area with the headquarters based at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre by Hilton.

Jordan Rally MERC starters:

23. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I)    Ford Fiesta S2000

60. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB)    Ford Fiesta S2000

52. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE)        Skoda Fabia S2000

53. Mazan Tantash (HKJ)/Zeid Abu Zeid (HKJ)        Subaru Impreza STi

54. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ahmad Ghaziri (RL)            Subaru Impreza STi

49. Ammar Hijazi (HKJ)/Joseph Matar (RL)            Skoda Fabia S2000

63. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT)/Anwar Al-Sharah (KT)        Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX

64. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KT)/Ahmad Al-Khrass (KT)        Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX

57. Nancy Al-Majali (HKJ)/Nadia Shnoudeh (HKJ)        Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX

68. Rami Hijazi (HKJ)/Ramzi Mansour (HKJ)            Subaru Impreza STi

59. Mirza Hatk (HKJ)/Faisal Hakki (HKJ)            Fiat Stilo

2011 FIA Middle East Rally Championship
Positions after round 2 of 7:

Drivers’ Championship

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)    50 pts
2. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)    33 pts
3. Ammar Hijazi (HKJ)        20 pts
4. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT)        19 pts
5. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE)    18 pts
6. Mufeed Mubarak (KT)    12 pts
7. Nancy Al-Majali (HKJ)    10 pts
7. Mazan Tantash (HKJ)        10 pts
9. Fahad Ashkanani (KT)    8 pts
10. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KT)    6 pts
11. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT)    2 pts
12. Michel Saleh (RL)        1 pt

Co-drivers’ Championship

1. Giovanni Bernacchini (I)    50 pts
2. Steve Lancaster (GB)        33 pts
3. Joseph Matar (RL)        20 pts
4. Anwar Al-Shraah (KT)    19 pts
5. Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE)    18 pts   
6. Saad Al-Melaifi (KT)        12 pts
7. Zeid Abu Zeid (HKJ)        10 pts
7. Nadia Shnoudeh (HKJ)    10 pts
9. Husein Gadanfar (KT)    8 pts
10. Ahmad Al-Khars (KT)    6 pts
11. Mubarak Al-Thafiri (KT)    2 pts
12.Nancy Al-Majali (HKJ)    1 pt



13.04.2011 / MaP

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