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Al-Attiyah in massive lead
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 17 - 10 - 2015

DEAD SEA, Jordan — Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel emerged unscathed from one of the most dramatic mornings in FIA Middle East Rally Championship history to extend their lead in the Jordan Rally to a massive 20min 19.5sec after 11 special stages.
Damage sustained to his Ford Fiesta RRC at the end of Thursday evening's opening stage meant that Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rajhi was not able to restart Friday. But no one envisaged the carnage that would befall Al-Attiyah's other rivals in the punishing heat and dust of a thrilling October day's rallying at the Dead Sea.
The Qatari duo of Khalid Al-Suwaidi and Rashid Al-Naimi suffered mechanical issues and Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari lost 23 minutes in the fifth timed test when he clouted a small rock and broke a wheel rim. All this left Al-Attiyah out on his own as he chases a ninth win in Jordan.
"I am very sad for the retirements for the others, especially for Yazeed (Al-Rajhi) and Khalid (Al-Suwaidi) and the problems for Abdulaziz (Al-Kuwari) today," said Al-Attiyah sportingly. "I hope everyone can continue and finish the rally tomorrow. I try not to lose my concentration now and keep a good rhythm."
The demise of three of the fancied front-runners left the door open for the Jordanian Group N driver Husam Salem and his co-driver Nancy Al-Majali to storm through into second overall in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX.
Meanwhile, Al-Kuwari and British co-driver Marshall Clarke recovered from their delays to reach parc ferme in fourth place after passing Ihab Al-Shorafa's Mitsubishi Lancer on the 11th stage This was despite incurring 2min 10sec of additional road penalties for late stage arrivals.
Asem Aref and Moad Arja entered the event in a diminutive Fiat Stilo but retired from sixth on the road section to stage eight.
Several Jordanian teams are running behind the international rally in a separate section of the event. Local female driver Lina Hadadi was the front-runner in this category after losing her place in the main event with FIA homologation issues. Basheer Azar was a close second.


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