Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah wins record-breaking 16th Jordan Rally title

Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah wins record-breaking 16th Jordan Rally title

QLNews
By QLNews

Qatar’s ace rally driver Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and his co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini were in cruise control mode as they raced to a record-breaking 16th Jordan Rally title at the Dead Sea on Saturday.

Al Attiyah — driving an Autotek Motorsport-prepared Skoda Fabia RS — never missed a beat during the round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) as he claimed his 85th career victory.

Al Attiyah successfully tried out different suspension settings over the closing stages of the rally en route to a winning margin of 5min 31.6sec. Bernacchini duly claimed his fifth victory in Jordan with Al Attiyah and his first since 2014.

The Italian’s 26th MERC success moved him ahead of Chris Patterson into an outright third in the MERC Co-drivers’ Hall of Fame for most wins behind Ronan Morgan (41) and Mathieu Baumel (32).

Al Attiyah, who claimed a clean sweep of eight stage wins yesterday, said: “I’m really happy to win in Jordan. It’s my favourite race. It’s the most difficult race in the Middle East. To come back strong with the new car, we learn a lot. Thanks to the team and the organisation. They always make this rally strong. To win 16 times here is amazing. Lebanon is a different race and we need to be clever there as well.”

Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, who is now tackling a full programme of MERC events in a QMMF-backed Skoda Fabia, finished second behind Al Attiyah. The second place, added to the fourth he achieved at home, means the Qatari is the new leader of the regional championship. Briton Marshall Clarke was his co-driver. A puncture and subsequent tyre change after an accident was the only real issue for the duo after a polished performance.

Al Kuwari sounded thrilled with his performance.

“Very difficult. As I always say, this is the world’s most difficult rally. It’s like a school for rally drivers, especially for someone like me who’s been away from rally cars more or less for five years. I was driving one rally per year. The pace wasn’t my best. I can be faster, but it isn’t easy to sit five years at home and come and be at Nasser’s speed.

“We went off in Turki, about 1.5km from the finish but we were lucky. We broke the arm and had a flat tyre and kept going to the finish. But I was cruising on the last stages to the finish. I’m very happy to be leading the Middle East and the Jordan national championship. A good half of the season. I don’t think I’m far off the pace and will get it soon hopefully,” he said.

Shaker Jweihan delighted home fans with the final place on the podium. He and Lebanese co-driver Carlos Hanna dominated the MERC2 category from start-to-finish and the Mitsubishi driver claimed a second maximum haul of points towards the championship’s secondary category.

Jweihan also moved into second place in the Drivers’ Championship behind Al Kuwari, while the result marked a first career MERC podium for both driver and co-driver.

With defending champion Abdullah Al Rawahi unable to start the final day with his damaged Skoda Fabia, that leaves the title race wide open heading into the summer break before action resumes in Lebanon in early September.

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