Saturday Qatar International Rally  as it happened

Saturday Qatar International Rally as it happened

12.02.2022: 2022 Qatar International Rally FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 2 Saturday, February 12th, 2022 Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya had hoped to restart under Rally2 regulations, but the engine had been damaged after his first stage incident on


2022 Qatar International Rally   
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 2
Saturday, February 12th, 2022




Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya had hoped to restart under Rally2 regulations, but the engine had been damaged after his first stage incident on Friday. It came to light once repairs had been made and the team took the Ford Fiesta R5 on a short test at Losail.
 


Østberg was faced with the additional challenge of opening the road through the 14.50km Al-Waab stage that ran between the settlement of Al-Mashrab and the Umm Al-Qahab village. But the Norwegian was in scintillating form and a stunning time of 6min 42.9sec enabled the Fabia driver to extend his lead over Al-Attiyah to 16.9 seconds with an average speed of 133.3km/h.
 


Meeke came home with the third quickest time and managed to pass Al-Suwaidi and climb to fourth. He was now only 4.1 seconds behind third-placed Al-Kuwari. Al-Thefiri saw his MERC2 lead grow to 7min 00.1sec, the Kuwaiti’s cause helped overnight by a 1min 20sec time penalty for Al-Aamri.
 


The longest stage of the rally was Umm Birka (24.54km) that ran through the north-eastern deserts in the Al-Khor municipality. Østberg safely negotiated the potential hazards of the stony terrain to record a time of 11min 07.8sec, but he ceded 7.6 seconds to a hard-pushing Al-Attiyah and the Qatari whittled the difference down to 9.3 seconds.
 


Khaled Al-Suwaidi stopped with reported suspension damage and the Qatari’s demise lifted Abdullah Al-Rawahi into fifth place. Meeke was again third quickest and closed to within 3.4 seconds of Al-Kuwari’s third position
 


Ras Laffan is better known for being the major hub of Qatar’s liquefied natural gas industry, but the nearby desert played host to the ninth 21.33km stage.
 


A flying Al-Attiyah stormed through to seal a second successive stage win and moved 9.6 seconds ahead of a troubled Østberg, as crews returned to Losail for a regroup and mid-loop service. Both drivers sustained flat tyres midway through the stage, with Mads suffering a delaminated rear left and Nasser wrecking a wing panel with a front-right flat.
 


Meeke was second quickest, a mere 3.6 seconds behind the Qatari, and moved up to third overall.

 

Østberg said: “What can I say? It seems to delaminate on the high speed. We had to go more than half the stage (SS9) like that. We were fastest on the first one and then we got lost on the second one. That happens. We lost only seven seconds and we know where we lost it. Just the last one, it was a shame. The game is still on. It’s rough out there today, I guess punctures will finally make the result. We will see. Hopefully we can avoid any more issues.”
 


Al-Attiyah added
: “The first stage in the morning we were really careful. We lost four seconds and then we really pushed and took a lot of risks. The last one, in the middle of the stage, we have a flat tyre on the front and we carry on. We were lucky because Mads also had the same. We take 18 seconds. It was good, but it was very hard. We try to keep going like this. Still nine seconds and three stages. It’s still everything open.”
 


Meeke said: “We changed the springs on the car overnight and the mechanics didn’t fit something properly. I wasn’t sure if the suspension was perfect and fitted correctly. So I had to take care in the first couple, but it seemed fine. I knew today that Nasser was going to be so strong. These stages, there are not so many junctions and you have to thread your way through the desert.



This is why he is the champion of the desert. Both have been very lucky and that’s why I backed off a bit today. I knew it was going to be a big battle. I said, let the fireworks happen up front. I made my mistake yesterday. It’s a bit frustrating. We are 1min 34 off the lead and we dropped 1min 30 yesterday. That’s life. That’s rallying.”
 


Al-Kuwari reflected:
“No way to keep Meeke behind me. We have to be logical. I have to keep going and finish the rally. No championship and nothing to worry about. Just finish the rally. I hope I don’t have to wait one year more to drive. I’m much faster than what I am doing now. They are always in the cars. The last two stages I had a sound on the fifth gear. There is a noise and I hope nothing is broken. Let’s do three more stages and finish the rally.”
 


Østberg needed a clear run through Al-Waab 2 and he beat his previous time by 3.5 seconds. But Al-Attiyah delivered an astonishing stage time to beat the Norwegian by 7.4 seconds to increase his lead to 17 seconds.
 


But there was drama in the stage behind the battling duo: Al-Kuwari had been worried about gearbox issues at the service point but the team decided not to change the unit. Unfortunately, the transmission failed in the stage and sidelined the dejected Qatari. Meeke was also in the wars and dropped over three and a half minutes to his rivals with damper problems and lost out on third place to Al-Rawahi.
 


There was no respite for Østberg through Umm Birka and Al-Attiyah stormed to another stage win and headed to the final stage at Ras Laffan with a lead of 25.7 seconds. Meeke was continuing with damper issues and dropped a further 20.5 seconds to Al-Rawahi.
 


Østberg was not able to reach Ras Laffan, however. A heavy impact in SS11 had damaged the car, a water pipe became detached and the Norwegian ground to a halt on the road section. His demise lifted Al-Rawahi into second overall and Meeke back on to the podium after a dramatic afternoon.
 


Al-Attiyah noticeably backed off through the final kilometres to secure what developed into a comfortable 16th win in Qatar, with Al-Rawahi and Meeke rounding off the podium places, the latter setting the fastest time on the stage.
 


Action in the 2022 FIA Middle East Rally Championship resumes in Kuwait on March 17th-19th.
 



Neil Perkins,  photos QMMF

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/saturday-qatar-rally-as-it-happended---234093.html

12.02.2022 / MaP

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