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Al-Attiyah clinches title
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 18 - 10 - 2015

DEAD SEA, Jordan — Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah confirmed his 11th FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) title in 13 years with an emphatic start-to-finish victory in the Jordan Rally, round six of the series, which finished with the stunning backdrop of the Dead Sea Saturday.
The Qatari and his French co-driver Matthieu Baumel won 18 of the 21 gravel special stages that are some of the most beautiful and demanding in the world. His ninth victory in Jordan also marked a 59th career MERC win to put him just one success away from equaling the 60 victories achieved by Dubai's Mohammed Bin Sulayem between 1984 and 2002.
The winning margin for his fourth successive victory in the Hashemite Kingdom was a massive 29min 31sec.
It was also MERC win number eight for Matthieu Baumel, who duly overtook Jordan's Khaled Zakaria to become the fifth most successful regional co-driver in history.
"I was happy because Yazeed (Al-Rajhi), Abdulaziz (Al-Kuwari) and Khalid (Al-Suwaidi) were back and pushing today," said Al-Attiyah. "I did what I had to do. Today, in the morning, I won all five stages. I was driving on the same pace as yesterday. No slowing and no risks."
The Qatari, who clinched the FIA World Cup in Morocco last week and could add the WRC 2 title to his trophy cabinet in Spain next Sunday, was in a class of his own. But a fierce battle waged over the closing stages for the runner-up spot.
Despite losing over 23 minutes Friday with a broken wheel, Qatar's Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and British navigator Marshall Clarke began a sterling fight back through the field. They started the final day in fourth and overhauled the Jordanian duo of Husam Salem and Khaled Juma to snatch second place.
It was fitting that an all-Jordanian team was on the podium and a delighted Husam Salem and co-driver Nancy Al-Majali held on to confirm a second successive victory in Group N and take third overall in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. It was the first podium finish for an all-Jordanian crew since Ameer Al-Najjar and Nicola Fanous finished third in 2008.
Khaled Juma has already confirmed the Jordanian national rally title in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII and he and Faris Al-Tal finished the international in fourth and second in Group N. Ihab Al-Shorafa and Rakan Khair were fifth.
Khalid Al-Suwaidi and Al-Attiyah's former co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini began the second leg under Rally2 after Friday's problems and looked set for a sixth-placed finish until late technical issues sidelined their Ford Fiesta RRC.
Saudi's Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr also restarted under Rally2 and overhauled the Fiat Stilo of Asem Aref and Moad Arja to finish in sixth position.
Lina Hadadi and Barkev Shadian finished as the highest crew running in a secondary rally behind the FIA event. They fended off a challenge from the fellow all-Subaru Impreza crew of Basheer Azar and Bilal Majdalawe.


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