Qatar’s Nada Zeidan starts the 2014 Kuwait International Rally in her Subaru Impreza. (1)
SIRBB, Kuwait: Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr edged into a slender lead at the end of the opening 1.8km Sirbb special stage of the Kuwait International Rally, held at the impressive new karting venue on the outskirts of Kuwait City yesterday.
The Ford Fiestas RRC crew set a time of 1min 40.5sec and that was enough to beat both Khalid Al-Qassimi and Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah by eight tenths of a second to steal the bragging rights before the event proper gets underway in the southern Kuwaiti desert on Friday morning. Salah bin Eidan was classified as the leading Kuwaiti driver in seventh position. Mohamed Al-Mutawee was the quickest of the five Abu Dhabi Racing Juniors in his Citroën DS3 R3.
Twenty-two cars were flagged away from the podium adjacent to the circuit by Sheikh Ahmed Al-Mansoor Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, director general of the public authority for youth and sports, in the presence of Sheikh Ali Al-Fawaz Al-Sabah, chairman of the board of directors of the Kuwait Quarter Mile Auto & Motorcycle Club (KMRC), and Sheikh Athbi Nayef Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, chairman of the organising committee of the Kuwait International Rally.
Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, FIA vice president for sport MENA and president of the Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) was also in attendance and flagged away several of the cars before heading back to Qatar for this weekend’s MotoGP.
There was also a special presentation to veteran drivers Michel Saleh, Ahmed Al-Thafiri and Ali Al-Biramei, the podium finishers in the first Kuwait round of the MERC held in 1984.
But Saleh’s enjoyable afternoon was soon to be ruined when he ground to a halt on the Sirbb stage after blowing the turbo and the resultant oil leakage caused a substantial delay for the remaining nine cars while errant oil was removed from the track surface.Saudi Arabia’s Saeed Al-Mouri suffered engine crankshaft issues on the eve of the start and was not able to make the starting ceremony with his Skoda Fabia S2000.
Yesterday, there will be three special stages repeated twice. The first 13.46km section has been renamed ‘Misfer’ in memory of the 2010 FIA Middle East rally champion Misfer Al-Marri, who passed away after an illness last month. That opening special starts at 09.56hrs and precedes runs through the longest stage of the rally, named Kheiran (30.23km), at 10.17hrs and Al-Zour (22.53km) at 10.55hrs.