Dead Sea, Jordan: Jordan Motorsport lost the longest stage of the Jordan Rally to inclement weather conditions in the region, but that failed to prevent Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah from storming into a comfortable lead of 4min 20.9sec after five slippery gravel stages of the opening round of the 2018 FIA Middle East Rally Championship on Friday.
Heavy overnight rain forced route modifications and the loss of the 30-kilometre Palms special that was scheduled to run twice, but the Ford Fiesta R5 driver and French navigator Matthieu Baumel won all five of the day’s timed tests that did take place to remain firmly on track for a record-equalling 12th victory in the Hashemite Kingdom.
Nasser said: “The stages got firmer as the day went on and dried and we were able to go quicker. We had no problems and will try and keep up the same pace to the finish tomorrow.”
Vojtech Stajf and Marketa Skacelova had a baptism of fire in their Skoda Fabia R5 and were never able to match the pace of Nasser on the driver’s second ever gravel rally with his R5. He lost over three minutes with a puncture in the fourth stage and slipped to third overall on his Jordanian debut.
Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri was the class of the MERC 2 field in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X with Qatari navigator Nasser Al-Kuwari and moved up to second place after the Czech driver’s problems Al-Thefiri won every stage in the showroom category and reached the overnight halt 3min 27.7sec clear of the Jordanian crew of Khaled and Emad Juma in a similar car.
Ahmad and Shadi Shaban were a distant fifth overall in their Mitsubishi and third in MERC 2. Fellow Jordanians, Ihab Al-Shorafa and Yousef Juma, rounded off the top six in another Mitsubishi Lancer derivative.
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.
Top-five positions after SS6:
1. Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Ford Fiesta R5 51min 17.3sec
2. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 56min 38.2sec
3. Vojtech Stajf (CZE)/Marketa Skacelova (CZE) Skoda Fabia R5 57min 59.0sec
4. Khaled Juma (JOR)/Emad Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 59min 05.9sec
5. Ahmed Shaban (JOR)/Shadi Shaban (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1hr 02min 01.6sec