DEAD SEA: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and Italian navigator Giovanni Bernacchini stormed to an emphatic victory in the 2014 Jordan Rally, round three of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), which finished at the Dead Sea after 21 timed special stages last afternoon.
The success was Al Attiyah’s eighth in Jordan and his 53rd in MERC history.
“We had a strategy and it worked,” said the delighted Qatari, who now has a 24-point lead in this year’s title race with three rounds remaining later in the year.
“The first couple of stages included some sections that had been used already and I was a little cautious because of the varying degree of grip, but I got into my rhythm after that. This is another tremendous win for our team. It is developing into a superb season now. I just need to keep the momentum going.”
Bernacchini’s fourth Jordan Rally success marked his 24th regional rally victory and he duly equals Chris Patterson’s record as the joint second most successive co-driver of all time in the MERC behind Irishman Ronan Morgan.
Both he and Al Attiyah headed straight from the finish podium to the Queen Alia airport in Amman to catch a flight to Dubai and a connection to Buenos Aires in readiness for next week’s WRC Rally of Argentina.
Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson won four special stages in total and finished 2min 02.2sec behind the Qatari.
The battle of the final day involved Abdullah Al Qassimi and Marouf Abu Samra. A one-minute time penalty for Al Qassimi swung the pendulum in Abu Samra’s favour and the pair traded times and third and fourth places all morning. But Al Qassimi hit back and snatched the final podium place on the final two stages. Kuwaiti driver Salah bin Eidan was a close fifth in his Ford Fiesta R5.
The Jordanian duo of Husam Salem and Nancy Al Majali dominated the competitive Group N category in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII and reached the finish in a superb sixth overall. WRC 2 regular Ala’a Rasheed slotted into seventh place in a Ford Fiesta RRC and Ala’ Khalifeh restarted day two under SupeRally and climbed back to eighth overall.
Abu Dhabi’s Mohamed Al Mutawee and Stephen McAuley led the Junior and 2WD categories from start-to-finish in the first of five DS3 R3s. The duo finished ninth overall and 23 minutes ahead of rivals Saeed Bintowq and Allan Harryman to seal their third successive victory in the Abu Dhabi Racing-Citroën Middle East Trophy.
Kuwaiti Group N driver Meshari Al Thafiri rounded off the top 10 and leads the championship’s showroom category. Qatar’s Nada Zeidan brought up the rear of the field in 19th place.