Nasser Al-Attiyah cruises into massive Jordan Rally lead after leg1

Nasser Al-Attiyah cruises into massive Jordan Rally lead after leg1

16.10.2015: • Jordanian duo of Salem and Juma in Group N fight; Al-Kuwari in fourth • Qatar’s Al-Naimi and Al-Suwaidi join Saudi’s Al-Rajhi on retirement

•    Jordanian duo of Salem and Juma in Group N fight; Al-Kuwari in fourth

•    Qatar’s Al-Naimi and Al-Suwaidi join Saudi’s Al-Rajhi on retirement list

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel emerged unscathed from one of the most dramatic mornings in FIA Middle East Rally Championship history to extend their lead in the Jordan Rally to a massive 20min 19.5sec after 11 special stages.

Damage sustained to his Ford Fiesta RRC at the end of Thursday evening’s opening stage meant that Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi was not able to restart on Friday. But no one envisaged the carnage that would befall Al-Attiyah’s other rivals in the punishing heat and dust of a thrilling October day’s rallying at the Dead Sea.

The Qatari duo of Khalid Al-Suwaidi and Rashid Al-Naimi suffered mechanical issues and Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari lost 23 minutes in the fifth timed test when he clouted a small rock and broke a wheel rim. All this left Al-Attiyah out on his own as he chases a ninth win in Jordan.

“I am very sad for the retirements for the others, especially for Yazeed (Al-Rajhi) and Khalid (Al-Suwaidi) and the problems for Abdulaziz (Al-Kuwari) today,” said Al-Attiyah sportingly. “I hope everyone can continue and finish the rally tomorrow. I try not to lose my concentration now and keep a good rhythm.

“It is very hot. From the data we have 58 (degrees Centigrade) inside the car, but the organisers are doing a fantastic job. We are given cold water at the end of every stage.”

The demise of three of the fancied front-runners left the door open for the Jordanian Group N driver Husam Salem and his co-driver Nancy Al-Majali to storm through into second overall in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX.

When Salem was delayed for over three minutes in the eighth stage, Jordanian national rally champion, Khaled Juma, moved up to second and topped Group N in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII, only to fall back to third overall after a time loss on the last stage of the day.

“I had a problem with the alternator after the water splash on the first stage, but we managed to continue,” said Group N leader Salem. “These are very technical stages and there have been a lot of problems for the other drivers. The stages are also slippery, especially in the corners. I have been outside the road several times and reduced my speed on the Turki stage, downhill.”

Meanwhile, Al-Kuwari and British co-driver Marshall Clarke recovered from their delays to reach parc ferme in fourth place after passing Ihab Al-Shorafa’s Mitsubishi Lancer on the 11th stage This was despite incurring 2min 10sec of additional road penalties for late stage arrivals.

Asem Aref and Moad Arja entered the event in a diminutive Fiat Stilo but retired from sixth on the road section to stage eight.

Several Jordanian teams are running behind the international rally in a separate section of the event. Local female driver Lina Hadadi was the front-runner in this category after losing her place in the main event with FIA homologation issues. Basheer Azar was a close second.

Leg 1 – as it happened


Yazeed Al-Rajhi clouted a rock and damaged the transmission on his Ford Fiesta RRC just after he had finished second on the super special stage on Thursday evening. The Saudi required service support to repair the damage and it meant that he was not able to continue for the remainder of the leg.

Under the new regulations, that meant he would incur 10 minutes of time penalties for each of the 10 stages he missed on Friday, although he did have the option to start leg two on Saturday.

Al-Attiyah was first into the Suwayma stage and he carded a time of 6min 15.4sec to extend his advantage over a chasing Al-Kuwari to 15.7 seconds. Al-Naimi started the special ahead of Group N rival Husam Salem and managed to snatch the lead of the showroom category by six-tenths of a second heading to the next Rawda special, despite a problem with his exhaust. 

Salem incurred a 10-second penalty for his late stage arrival, but he was in impressive form in Rawda and scorched through to regain the Group N initiative. 

Al-Attiyah extended his lead to 28.7 seconds through there and another quickest time in Turki saw the gap widen to 44.8 seconds at refuelling. But the stage proved to be the undoing of both Al-Suwaidi and Al-Naimi. Both Qataris stopped in the stage with technical issues.

Al-Naimi said: “This is a very difficult rally. There were a lot of blind crests and I saw a ditch and we hit it hard and we damaged the engine. We are out of the rally.”

Al-Attiyah continued in cruise control through Nebo and his lead grew to a massive 5min 09.4sec when news filtered through that Al-Kuwari had stopped in the special and Husam Salem inherited second place. The Qatari managed to struggle to the finish with the loss of over 23 minutes.

“We hit small rock and damaged the wheel,” groaned Al-Kuwari. “We stopped and went out of the car to change the tyre, but we got stuck between stones and rocks. I tried to drive and could not until some spectators came. They were watching and then they helped get us out. I drove on the tyre until the tyre went out. Then, we stopped and changed the tyre.”

Al-Attiyah reached service with a lead of 6min 33.9sec over Salem, as the surviving teams took a short respite from the heat and the rigours of the five stages they were about to tackle for a second time in the full glare of the afternoon sun.

Al-Attiyah’s lead grew to 7min 51.3sec with a cautious fastest time through the re-run of Suwayma and, despite being 8.5 seconds slower on the re-run of Rawda, he extended that advantage to 11min 58.1sec heading to Turki after Salem was delayed.

The Jordanian’s problems increased when he incurred half a minute in time penalties and this enabled Khaled Juma to snatch second place and a 1min 12sec lead in the showroom section. Asem Aref retired on the road section to Rawda.

Al-Attiyah cruised through Turki 2 to extend his advantage to 14min 07.9sec and that lead was 16min 24.2sec after SS10. There were no dramas for the Qatari through the last stage of the day, although Al-Kuwari managed to find a way into fourth at the expense of Shorafa and Salem overtook Juma to snatch the lead back in Group N.

There will be 10 further special stages in the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley areas before the ceremonial finish takes place around 5pm at the Dead Sea.

photo caption:    HRH Prince Feisal Al-Hussein visits Jordan Rally race control.

2015 Jordan Rally – positions after SS11 (unofficial):

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Ford Fiesta RRC                                1hr 36min 40.3sec

2. Husam Salem (JOR)/Nancy Al-Majali (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX                                        1hr 56min 59.8sec

3. Khaled Juma (JOR)/Faris Al-Tal (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII                                      1hr 57min 57.0sec

4. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Marshall Clarke (GBR) Ford Fiesta RRC                           2hr 03min 47.9sec                

5. Ihab Al-Shorafa (JOR)/Rakan Khair (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX                                        2hr 06min 51.7sec

Timetable of events – Saturday, October 17 (leg 2):

09.05 SS12: Syagha 1, 10.00km
09.24 SS13: Rama 1, 8.42km
10:04 SS14: Shuna 1, 15.30km
10.49 SS15: Karamah 1, 17.00km
11.34 SS16: Baptism 1, 11.34km
12.24 Dead Sea service
13.12 SS17: Syagha 2, 10.00km
13.33 SS18: Rama 2, 8.42km
14:23 SS19: Shuna 2, 15.30km
14.58 SS20: Karamah 2, 17.00km
15.43 SS21: Baptism 2, 11.34km
16.16 Dead Sea service

- Neil Perkins also photos


16.10.2015 / MaP

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