Dead Sea, Jordan: Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah cruised to the fastest time of 1min 35.9sec through the 1.71km Vestel super special stage that kick-started the 2018 FIA Middle East Rally Championship on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan on Thursday afternoon.
The Ford Fiesta R5 driver is chasing a 14th regional title and a record-equalling 12th win in Jordan. He and French navigator Mathieu Baumel will take a lead of just 1.4 seconds over the Czech duo of Vojtech Stajf and Marketa Skacelova into the gravel stages on Friday after tackling the opening stage in torrential rain. The Skoda Fabia R5 crew are taking part in the Hashemite Kingdom for the first time.
Cars were flagged away from the ceremonial start podium by HRH Prince Feisal Al-Hussein, Chairman of Jordan Motorsport, in gloomy weather conditions, as dark storm clouds gathered menacingly in the Dead Sea area.
Minutes earlier, Meshari Al Thefiri, Abdullah Al Ruwaihi, Nasser, Stajf, Ahmad Shaban and Asem Aref had attended an official Q&A session with the media on the start podium.
First blood in the competitive MERC 2 category fell to Kuwait’s Meshari Al Thefiri after the rain began to intensify as the stage progressed and was falling heavily with sporadic thunder and lightning for the later cars through the super special stage. Jordan’s Ahmad Shaban finished the stage three seconds behind the Kuwaiti and Khaled Juma was a further 1.8 seconds adrift.
Twenty-one-year-old Omani Abdullah Al-Rawahi completed his first ever MERC stage in seventh position after stalling close to the stage finish.
Lebanon’s Henry Kahy and Jordanian co-driver Musa Djiyerian got their regional rallying campaign in a Group A Skoda Fabia underway with the eighth quickest time.
Local driver Asem Aref, co-driven by Faris Tal, guided his little two-wheel drive Renault Clio RX safely through the opener at the rear of the field.
Amir Tareq Al Taher, Zeid Miqdad, Salameh Al-Gammaz and Raed Al-Edwan are tackling the second round of the Jordan National Championship and additional points are available this weekend.
Tarek Al-Taher clocked the fastest time in the saturated opening super special stage to lead Salamah Al-Gammaz by 12.6 seconds. Al-Edwan left the track and rolled in the slippery conditions and lost over two and a half minutes.
The 36th edition of the Jordan Rally is running with the support of Kroon Oil, VESTEL, Hilton Dead Sea Resort and Spa, the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre managed by Hilton, Guarantee travel group, Hala and Bliss FM.
2018 Jordan Rally – Top five positions after SS1:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Ford Fiesta R5 1min 35.9sec
2. Vojtech Stajf (CZE)/Marketa Skacelova (CZE) Skoda Fabia R5 1min 37.3sec
3. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1min 43.2sec
4. Khaled Juma (JOR)/Emad Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1min 48.0sec
5. Ahmed Shaban (JOR)/Shadi Shaban (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1min 46.2sec