Dead Sea (Jordan): Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel were in a class of their own after 11 special stages of the 2019 Jordan Rally in the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley areas on Friday.
The Qatari is bidding for a record-breaking 13th victory at the second round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) and guided his Autotek-run Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 to the fastest time on each of the day’s gravel stages until an alarm ruined his chance of completing a clean sweep on the final super special stage of the day. The outcome was a massive lead of 4min 21.2sec for the 14-time regional champion and 21 consecutive stage wins in this year’s rally series for the Polo.
Al Attiyah said: “Last stage I see small alarm. I see fuel pressure. I decided just to go easily. Maybe we run without fuel. The gauge only shows zero, so I decided to finish the small stage without a push. I am happy we are here now. I am quite happy. It is fantastic to win all the stages except for the super special. We are learning a lot with this car.”
Fellow countryman Abdulaziz Al Kuwari made a slow start on his return to the Hashemite Kingdom for the first time in three years at the wheel of a Škoda Fabia R5 with British co-driver Marshall Clarke. He held second place, 48.5 seconds in front of the Jordanian crew of Marouf Abu Samra and Malek Hariri in a Motortune Ford Fiesta R5, after both drivers had lost time with flat tyres on the second loop. Al Kuwari also sustained some car damage towards the end and his rival had throttle issues.
Meshari Al Thefiri found himself out alone with a massive MERC 2 advantage of 5min 13.9sec after fellow Kuwaiti Saleh Bin Eidan fell by the wayside with mechanical issues after the fifth stage.
Saudi Arabia’s Said Al-Mouri returned to Jordan for the first time in six years with navigator Amr Refai and held fifth overall and second in MERC 2 after finding a competitive pace on the second loop of five stages.
Lebanese rookie Alex Feghali gained in confidence as the day progressed, benefiting from navigator Joseph Matar’s experience, to reach the night halt in a fine sixth place and third in MERC 2.
Qatar’s Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya battled on through the pain barrier with steering issues after a puncture. He and experienced Italian co-driver Nicola Arena held sixth overall in a Motortune Ford Fiesta R5 until they retired after eight stages.
Oman’s Zakariya Al-Aufi was classified in seventh and Lebanon’s Henry Kahy guided his Škoda Fabia to eighth and the MERC 3 advantage.
The Jordanian trio of Khaled Juma, Ihab Al-Shorafa and Shadi Shaban retired on the first loop of stages with turbo, engine and clutch-related issues. They were joined by MERC 3 entrant Asem Aref after the water splash on the Baptism Site stage.
Jordanian drivers Salameh Al-Gammaz, Tareq Al-Taher, Ziad Miqdad, Amjad Anasweh and Sami Fleifel and Oman’s Zakariya Al-Amri were entered in the National Rally. Al-Ghammez led from the start before dropping two minutes on the super special stage in the unofficial results. The local driver reached the night halt 52.1 seconds behind leader Al-Taher. Al-Amri lost fifth place after stopping in SS9.
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