- Special Pages
DEAD SEA, Jordan: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini led after a titanic struggle for supremacy on the first day of the 30th anniversary of the Jordan Rally in round four of the 2012 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, at the Dead Sea yesterday.
Despite running first on the road and being forced to sweep loose gravel off the track surfaces, Al Attiyah won four of the day’s eight special stages to hold an 18.8-second advantage over the Lebanese duo of Roger Feghali and Joseph Matar at the end of day one.
Feghali won two stages in his Motortune Ford Fiesta and heads into the final day 17.4 seconds in front of third-placed Saudi driver Yazeed Al Rajhi, who was fastest on the first and third stages with Ulster co-driver Michael Orr.
“It has been unbelievable sweeping the road and running first through the stages,” said Al-Attiyah, who drives a brand new Ford Fiesta RRC on an event where there are (according to rally historian Martin Holmes) more Regional Rally Cars (RRCs) than on any event ever before. “I think maybe one second a kilometre difference. It was so slippery out there. It was not easy to push hard and stay very competitive,” he added.
The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi made a low-key return to the sport after a 12-month absence and was a solid fourth overall in his Ford Fiesta to make it a Ford 1-2-3-4. Championship leader Abdulaziz Al Kuwari held fifth in the sole Mini S2000 and Lebanon’s Group N leader Nick Georgiou and Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi rounded off the top seven.
Mazan Tantash slipped from seventh to 12th overall after puncture-related delays on stage six and this enabled Zeid Dahshan to climb to eighth and finish the day as the leading Jordanian driver.
Qatar’s Misfer Al Marri lost his chances of taking outright victory when he sustained a time-consuming flat tyre on the third stage and slipped to ninth overall. Khalid Al Suwaidi lost five minutes with a puncture and slipped to 10th position before leaving the road in SS7.
Jordan’s Husam Salem, Tantash and Ala’a Rasheed finished the day in 10th, 11th and 12th positions, but Egypt’s Ahmad El Kabany brought up the rear of the field in 13th.
Runs through the Turki, Bahath, Al Karama and the Baptism Site stages are on the agenda for today and the four timed tests will be repeated in the afternoon after a regroup and service from 11.33hrs. THE PENINSULA