DEAD SEA: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and Italian navigator Giovanni Bernacchini held a lead of 5.4 seconds after the opening 1.63km gravel super special stage of the 2014 Jordan Rally at Abdali, the new downtown of Amman, yesterday.
Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson were classified in second position in a Citroën DS3 RRC and Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi and French co-driver Catherine Derousseaux were third, a further 9.2 seconds adrift.
The early advantage in the Group N category was held by the Jordanian crew of fourth-placed Husam Salem and Nancy Al Majali. Qatar’s Khalifa Al Attiyah was sidelined in the stage with reported mechanical problems.
Mohamed Al Mutawee was the quickest of the five Abu Dhabi Juniors and snatched a 2.6-second lead in both the 2WD and Junior categories.
Twenty-three crews were flagged away from the start by HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein, chairman of Jordan Motorsport, in the presence of a number of VIPs and dignitaries including Nasser Khalifa Al Attiyah, president of the QMMF and FIA vice-president for sport MENA.
A one-minute silence was held at the podium before the start in memory of the Qatari driver Misfer Al Marri, the 2010 regional rally champion who passed away earlier this year.
Hundreds of spectators benefited from a national Labor Day holiday in Jordan and were present to witness a Q&A forum with the leading drivers and the ceremonial start that preceded the first gravel super special stage. The forum was broadcast on live television and radio and included interviews and questions with regional championship rivals Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah, Khalid Al Qassimi and Michel Saleh and local drivers Ala’a Rasheed and Husam Salem.
Yazeed Al Rajhi was given special dispensation by rally officials to complete his reconnaissance of the gravel special stages in the Dead Sea area yesterday morning after the Saudi had been taken ill and was hospitalised for treatment for a heart condition on Wednesday.
But the Riyadh driver will not start the event and will undergo a procedure at a hospital in Amman to remove a reported arterial blockage before returning to Saudi Arabia for further treatment, according to friend and rival Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah.
Today, rally officials have planned two loops of five gravel special stages split by one regroup and a 30-minute service break at the Dead Sea.