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Nasser Al-Attiyah seals crushing victory
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 27 - 03 - 2016

FINTAS, Kuwait — A record sixth victory in the Kuwait International Rally was never really in doubt for Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah. The 11-time FIA Middle East rally champion won all the 13 timed special stages at the second round of the regional series and reached the finish in Fintas Saturday afternoon with a winning margin of 11min 24.9sec.
He and French navigator Matthieu Baumel controlled their pace at the three-day rally from start-to-finish to deliver yet another faultless team performance, a record 62nd MERC rally win for the driver and an 11th for his navigator.
"It was important that I won here and collected the maximum points, but I wasn't really pushed on this rally," said Al-Attiyah. "I would like to see my rivals come back on the next rallies. The car was fantastic and we managed to win every stage on an event that I enjoy very much."
Newly-crowned Kuwaiti national champion Meshari Al-Thefiri, whose father Ahmed won the event before it became a round of the series way back in 1981, capped a memorable weekend with second overall and outright victory in the hard-fought MERC 2 category in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. His winning margin was 1min 28.2sec.
Partnered by Qatar's Nasser Al-Kuwari on this occasion, he became only the second Kuwaiti in MERC history to reach the podium and the first to record a second-placed finish – the Kuwaiti duo of Mufeed Mubarak and Saad Al-Melaifi finished third in the MERC category at the Jordan WRC Rally in 2011.
Qatar's Rashed Al-Nuami and Italian navigator Nicola Arena struggled with the loss of third gear on their Subaru Impreza for two stages and retired from third position with ongoing gearbox issues with one stage to go, although they maintained the unofficial MERC 2 championship advantage after two rounds.
Yigit Timur lost his way in one stage for a time in a Tok Sport Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, but he and co-driver Ufuk Ulocak benefited from Al-Nuami's misfortune to confirm third place and the runner-up spot in MERC 2. The winner's brother Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Cypriot navigator Savvas Laos finished the event in fourth, while the Lebanese duo of Rodolphe Asmar and experienced co-driver Joseph Matar were fifth.
Qatar's Khaled Al-Suwaidi and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini benefited from the Rally 2 ruling to start the second day in eighth overall in their Ford Fiesta R5. But the Qatari was too far behind to make a real impression and, despite a string of second fastest times, he could only finish sixth.
Saudi rookie Rakan Al-Rashed and Finnish navigator Jarkko Kalliolepo held seventh overall before being overhauled by Al-Suwaidi. Al-Rashed finished his second ever rally in seventh place, however, after Al-Nuami retired.
The Qatari pairing of Abdullah Al-Kuwari and Adel Hussein returned to action under Rally 2 and completed the event in eighth. Turkey's Vidat Diker and the Kuwaiti duo of Saleh Ali and Elie Chachati rounded off the international finishers in ninth, 10th and 11th overall.
The event was organized by the Basil Salem Al-Sabah Motor Racing Club (BMRC) under the chairmanship of Sheikh Athbi Nayef Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and in conjunction with the General Authority for Sport.
The regional series now moves on to demanding special stages near the Dead Sea in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan at the start of May.


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