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Syria - 7-9 Oct 10

Posted: October 9, 2010 3:34 PM - 4320 Hits

Round 6 - 2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship

QATAR’S NASSER SALEH AL-ATTIYAH STORMS TO EMPHATIC FOURTH SYRIAN RALLY VICTORY

Posted: October 9, 2010 1:05 PM

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini clinched an emphatic victory by the margin of 12min 23.4sec in the 10th Syrian International Rally, round six of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), which finished in Sednaya on Saturday afternoon.

The pair won nine of the event’s 13 gravel special stages, as Al-Attiyah moved into second position in the Drivers’ Championship with his 36th outright MERC success and a record-breaking fourth win in Syria.

Bernacchini clinched his seventh MERC win as a co-driver and now ties Jordan’s Khaled Zakaria as the fourth most successful navigator in championship history. It was the Italian’s first win in Syria.

“This is a fantastic win for me,” said a delighted Al-Attiyah. “I have missed three rounds of the championship this season, but I still have a chance to win the title again now. Misfer (Al-Marri) is doing what he has to do, but I will go into the last two rounds knowing that I have a great chance if I can win both rallies.”

Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi continued his run of excellent form to take second position and move into a similar place in the Drivers’ Championship standings after six of eight rounds. Syria’s Haitham Al-Yousefi retired from second position on the final stage with radiator problems and Ahmad Hamsho finished as the leading local driver in sixth overall.

Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri started cautiously on Friday, but found a sensible pace over the closing stages to claim third overall and six points for being the third registered driver home. He will now take a 10-point championship lead to Cyprus next month and a pair of third places on the remaining two rounds will be enough to see him claim a maiden regional title. His Italian co-driver Nicola Arena continues to lead the Co-Drivers’ Championship.

Fifteen of the original 19 starters began the second day and Al-Attiyah was in control through the 17.3km of the Deir Ateyah stage. He extended his lead to 8m 33s, as Abdullah Al-Qassimi reduced Haitham Al-Yousefi’s hold on second position by 22 seconds. Qatar’s Khaled Al-Suwaidi had been plagued by problems on day one and illness forced him to withdraw before the restart.

Al-Attiyah was again quickest through Runnet and the top-eight held station advantage had grown to 8m 52.4s and another fastest time in SS10 saw his lead grow to a staggering 10m 21s. There were no changes inside the top nine, although Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thafiri overhauled Syria’s Amir Arnaout to snatch 10th position.

Al-Marri claimed the fastest time on the second Deir Ateyah stage, but Al-Attiyah beat Al-Yousefi by over 30 seconds and extended his lead to 10m 52.1s. The series leader was again quickest in Runnet, but Al-Attiyah had noticeably eased his pace and headed into the final stage with an outright lead of 11m 11.9s. Al-Thafiri passed fellow Kuwaiti Essam Al-Nejadi to take ninth overall.

Al-Marri completed his hat-trick of stage wins in the final 25.30km stage, but Al-Attiyah had done enough to claim a straightforward victory and further emphasise the performance advantage of the S2000 cars over their Group N counterparts. But there was late misery for Al-Yousefi, who retired from second position with a broken radiator and handed the runner-up spot to Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi.

The event took place under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism with the full support of MTN – official sponsor, SMI, the Sheraton Ma’arat Sednaya, Jupiter Rent-a-Car, Zaman Alkhair, Aldunia television and Al-Madina radio.

The next round of the 2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship will be the Limassol-based FX Pro Cyprus Rally on November 5-7.

Results

Posted: October 9, 2010 12:59 PM

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I) Ford Fiesta S2000 2h 51m 21.2s
2. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 3h 03m 44.6s
3. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Nicola Arena (I) Subaru Impreza 3h 04m 31.6s
4. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA/Stéphane Prevot (B) Subaru Impreza 3h 11m 50.2s
5. Abdullah Al-Rabban (QA)/Imad Juma (HKJ) Subaru Impreza 3h 15m 23.2s
6. Ahmad Hamsho (SYR)/Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 3h 19m 50.8s
7. Jaber Al-Marri (QA)/Kamal Khoder (RL) Subaru Impreza 3h 22m 05.9s
8. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT)/Fares Al-Thafiri (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 3h 23m 03.5s
9. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT)/Anwar Al-Sharaah (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 3h 25m 01.5s
10. Amir Arnaout (SYR)/Ala Al-Hmoud (HKJ) Subaru Impreza 3h 28m 15.7s

QATAR’S NASSER SALEH AL-ATTIYAH SURGES INTO HUGE SYRIAN RALLY LEAD AFTER DAY ONE

Posted: October 8, 2010 2:59 PM

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini held a massive 7min 39.5sec lead after seven stages of the 10th Syrian International Rally, round six of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), in Sednaya on Friday.

“Mission accomplished so far,” said Al-Attiyah. “I pushed very hard on the very stage to get into a lead and I was able to control my pace from then on. I need to take maximum points. So far so good.”

Engine failure cost main rival Sheikh Khaled Al-Qassimi his second place after three stages and it was left to Syria’s Haitham Al-Yousefi and Ahmad Hamsho to give chase mid-way through the day. The local duo held second and fourth, with Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi sandwiched between them in third overall. Hamsho was delayed late on and Al-Qassimi duly moved up to third spot.

Regional championship leader Misfer Al-Marri started slowly, but climbed to 10th at the day’s mid-point and starts Saturday’s remaining six stages in fourth overall and classified as the third registered MERC driver. Fellow Qatari Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari held fifth position at the end of day one and Ahmad Hamsho slipped to seventh.

Al-Attiyah laid down the gauntlet through the opening 23.85km MTN stage and surged into a massive 53.8s lead over Khaled Al-Qassimi. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari set the third fastest time, but the rest of the Group N field was unable to match the S2000 cars. Al-Marri dropped nearly four minutes to the leader and Khaled Al-Suwaidi found himself over eight minutes adrift in a dramatic start to the two-day rally.

Khaled Al-Qassimi steadied the ship through Maaloula and beat an easing Al-Attiyah by 3.6s, as Al-Yousefi surged into third overall from Abdullah Al-Qassimi. Lebanon’s Michel Saleh succumbed to gear stick problems and Al-Kuwari plummeted to the rear of the field with his own mechanical woes.

Al-Attiyah won the third Jupiter stage and reached service at Deir Ateyah with a 54.6s lead. Al-Yousefi trailed Khaled Al-Qassimi, with Abdullah Al-Qassimi, Qatar’s Abdullah Al-Rabban and Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thafiri completing the top six.

Series leader Al-Marri trailed in 13th position, Al-Suwaidi held 16th, but the morning’s three stages further emphasised the chasm in performance between the leading two S2000 cars and the chasing pack in Group N Subarus and Mitsubishis.

Al-Attiyah was considerably slower the second time through the MTN stage, but he found himself in a lead of 5m 14.9s after the stage. Al-Qassimi had damaged his engine on the run into service and was sidelined, as Al-Marri set the second fastest time and Al-Yousefi inherited second overall.

Al-Marri was second fastest in both the MTN and Maaloula stages and climbed to seventh position, but Al-Attiyah’s lead had grown to 6m 09.2s when he arrived at the sixth timed test. The Qatari was fastest yet again and began the final stage of the day with a massive 6m 29.4s advantage over Al-Yousefi. Al-Kuwari climbed back to fourth overall and Al-Marri’s afternoon surge pushed him into sixth. Only two of the 19 starters had retired.

Al-Attiyah was quickest through the seventh and longest stage of the day, as the leading trio held station on the blustery return to the overnight halt in Sednaya.

The event is taking place under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism with the full support of MTN – official sponsor, SMI, the Sheraton Ma’arat Sednaya, Jupiter Rent-a-Car, Zaman Alkhair, Aldunia television and Al-Madina radio.

Tomorrow (Saturday) there are a further six special stages before the ceremonial finish outside the Sheraton Ma’arat Sednaya. Teams will tackle the Deir Ateyah, Runnet and MTN Speed stages twice during the course of the day.

MIDDLE EAST TITLE RIVALS SET FOR FIERCE TWO-DAY BATTLE ACROSS THE SYRIAN DESER

Posted: October 7, 2010 10:45 AM

Ahmad Hamsho and Haitham Al-Yousefi will lead the Syrian challenge against the region’s top rally drivers when competitive action in the 10th Syrian International Rally, round six of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, gets underway on Friday morning.

Local support will naturally side with the leading Syrian duo, but regional rally followers will be monitoring the battle between Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri, Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Khaled Al-Suwaidi and the UAE’s Sheikh Khaled and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi.

Even though eight drivers can mathematically still win the title, this quintet is gunning to set the Syrian desert stages alight with some ferocious driving. Championship leader Misfer Al-Marri starts at number two, behind Al-Attiyah and ahead of Khaled Al-Qassimi, and is thanking his lucky stars that his Subaru’s gear stick snapped during a test on Wednesday afternoon rather than on the start line of the first stage.

Khaled Al-Qassimi is chomping at the bit to set the pace. “We know the situation and know what we have to do this weekend,” said Al-Qassimi, who will make a decision on whether to enter the Cyprus Rally following the outcome of the Syrian event on Saturday evening. “I need to score points for first or second and, for sure, it would help if Misfer did not finish.”

Al-Attiyah also realises that it is a matter of winning at all costs in his new Ford Fiesta S2000.
“I will be racing with Khaled,” said the defending regional champion.
“I have to beat him, first of all, and then we can look at the position afterwards. This rally does not suit Group N cars, so that should give us a better chance to take the win.”

The Syrian Automobile Club have laid on two days of revised special stages in the deserts around Sednaya and international competitors now know that a thorough two-day reconnaissance was critical. “We race through each stage twice and one we will do in reverse a third time,” said Irish co-driver Michael Orr.
“They are challenging stages and may be quite hard on the cars, so we will need to be cautious as well as fast. It’s about finding the fine balance.”

Neighbouring Lebanon is represented by veteran driver Michel Saleh, navigator Kamal Khoder and female co-driver Dana Asaf, who is sitting alongside Kuwaiti driver Mizher Al-Tannak in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX.

“I have competed in five or six rallies in Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, but this is my first major challenge since the Qatar International a few years ago,” enthused Asaf, the only female on the entry list this year.

Mufeed Mubarak and Essam Al-Nejadi head the Kuwaiti contingent, Mehmet Orcun Polat represents Turkey and Jordanian co-drivers Ziad Masannat, Ata Al-Hmoud and Ala Al-Hmoud represent the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the absence of a driver on this occasion.

There are several additional entries from Qatar and co-drivers from Northern Ireland, Italy, England and Belgium boost the international feel of rally headquarters in Sednaya.

The event is taking place under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism with the full support of MTN – official sponsor, SMI, the Sheraton Ma’arat Sednaya, Jupiter Rent-a-Car, Zaman Alkhair, Aldunia television and Al-Madina radio.

Tomorrow (Friday) crews will tackle seven timed special stages in a route laid on by clerk of the course Hani Shaban and his team at the Syrian Automobile Club.

Action begins with the punishing 23.85km MTN stage at 08.38hrs and is followed by a run through the desert near the historic biblical village of Maaloula from 10.11hrs.

A short Jupiter-backed stage guides crews to a service and regroup at Deir Ateyah and the three specials are repeated on Friday afternoon. A punishing 25.35km special - sponsored by the host Sheraton Ma’arat Sednaya - rounds off the first day’s action from 14.53hrs.

ALL SYSTEMS GO FOR MIDDLE EAST’S TOP RALLY DRIVERS IN SYRIA

Posted: October 6, 2010 11:30 AM

The Middle East’s leading rally drivers completed their two-day reconnaissance for the Syrian International Rally, round six of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, on Wednesday afternoon. The event gets underway with a ceremonial start in downtown Damascus from 18.00hrs on Thursday.

The Syrian Automobile Club has laid on a revised two-day route of challenging gravel special stages in the deserts around Sednaya, the historic mountainous town situated in the scenic hills above Damascus. The Syrian event has been an integral part of the region’s off-road motor sport series since 2001, but has switched to an October date for the first time.

The provisional 24 starters on the entry list can expect dry, dusty conditions in the Syrian deserts on Friday (October 8) and Saturday (October 9), but temperatures in Sednaya are expected to fall sharply at night.

There will be no margin for error for either Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah or the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi. To retain his regional title, Al-Attiyah knows that he must win at all costs in Syria.

He trails series leader Misfer Al-Marri by 14 points and there are only a possible 30 points left for the taking if he manages to take outright wins in Sednaya on Saturday afternoon and then in Cyprus next month and Dubai in December.

Assuming he was to take a hat-trick of wins, Al-Marri only requires 17 more points from the three remaining rallies to become only the fourth Qatari driver in history to win the prestigious regional title – Saeed Al-Hajri won in 1984 and 1985, Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani clinched victory in 1993 and Al-Attiyah has won six times in the last seven years.

“I am in a good position and know that I must concentrate on reaching the finish and scoring points,” said Al-Marri. “I don’t need to win the rallies to win the title.”

Al-Qassimi has a slightly better chance of winning the title for a second time. The Emirati trails Al-Marri by 10 points and the Qatari will need to amass a further 21 points to prevent the Abu Dhabi-based Ford Fiesta S2000 driver from repeating his 2004 triumph. That statistic assumes that Al-Qassimi is capable of winning the three remaining rallies.

Qatar’s Khaled Al-Suwaidi also has an outright chance of claiming the title. He finds himself in a similar position to Al-Attiyah in what has become one of the most fascinating championship showdowns in the history of Middle East rallying.

Even sixth-placed Qatari Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani and Sharjah’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi still have a mathematical chance of lifting the title. It would be a stunning feat for Al-Thani to win the series for a second time after a gap of over 17 years.

It is quite likely that Al-Marri could win the regional championship without taking an individual rally win. This feat first occurred in the championship back in 1992, when Saudi driver Mamdouh Khayat was a model of consistency and won the series without finishing higher than second overall.

The official start will be broadcast live on Syrian satellite television and Aldunia television and the event is taking place under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism with the full support of MTN – official sponsor, SMI, the Sheraton Ma’arat Sednaya, Jupiter Rent-a-Car, Zaman Alkhair, Aldunia television and Al-Madina radio.

Seeded Entry List

Posted: October 6, 2010 11:29 AM

WORLD’S LEADING CO-DRIVERS SET FOR SYRIAN INTERNATIONAL RALLY

Posted: October 1, 2010 9:48 AM

Several of the world’s leading co-drivers will take part in next week’s MTN-backed Syrian International Rally, round six of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, which takes place in the deserts around Sednaya on October 7-9.

While drivers normally earn more than their fair share of glory in the high-speed sport of international rallying, the partnership between the driver and co-driver is crucial to success. The co-driver is the ‘office manager’ of the car, responsible for the timings of the team, reading the route instructions and liaising with team management on non-driving affairs.

The co-driver calls the corners, straights, hairpins and mentally assesses the terrain before finalising his pace notes to be read at high-speed during the actual special stages. One error by the co-driver, be it mathematical or in note accuracy, can have catastrophic consequences for a rally team.

The FIA World Rally Championship is the pinnacle of the sport and several names on the entry list for the 10th Syrian International Rally have a fine reputation competing at the highest level.

Forty-one-year old Belgian co-driver Stéphane Prevot is the most experienced international navigator on the Syrian entry list. He will co-drive for the Qatari driver Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari in a Subaru Impreza. Prevot was born at Huy in Belgium and has worked for many of the leading professional teams.

He made his debut in the Belgian Championship in 1987 and went on to win the Belgian Group N Championship with Marc Timmers three years later. He later teamed up with the highly-rated Belgian driver Bruno Thiry in a works Opel Kadett and the pair finished a superb second overall in the 1992 Ivory Coast Rally.
He signed for the factory Ford team in 1994, finished fifth in the WRC and maintained a close association with the Blue Oval through the late nineties. Prevot won a European rally title with Thiry in 1999 and the pair signed for the Subaru World Rally Team.

He switched to the official Skoda operation in 2001 and worked with the Bastos Peugeot WRC team in 2002. Second places followed in the Mexican and German rounds of the WRC in 2004 and he tackled a programme of events with Duval in a Citroën factory car the following season.

Prevot returned to the Subaru World Rally Team in 2006 and a successful partnership with Australian Chris Atkinson resulted in a seventh place finish for the Aussie the following year.

Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini is another world-class co-driver, who made his name in the WRC with Gigi Galli and now competes in both the WRC and the Middle East rally series with Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah.

He will be aiming for a seventh career MERC win in Syria. That will push him up to equal fourth in the MERC’s new co-driving ‘Hall of Fame’. Irishman Ronan Morgan tops the list of previous co-driving Middle East rally winners with 40 successes, followed by Ulster’s Chris Patterson (25), England’s John Spiller (19) and Jordanian co-driver Khaled Zakaria with seven victories.

The Syrian event is taking place with the full support of the Ministry of Tourism, MTN – official sponsor, SMI, the Sheraton Ma’arat Sednaya, Jupiter Rent-a-Car, Zaman Alkhair, Aldunia television and Al-Madina radio.

The event is based at Sednaya, north of Damascus, for a sixth time and will start in the capital on Thursday, October 7th, with two days of special stages taking place on Friday, October 8th and Saturday, October 9th.

LEADING MIDDLE EAST RALLY DRIVERS ENTER 10th SYRIAN INTERNATIONAL RALLY

Posted: September 26, 2010 8:43 PM

Officials at the Syrian Automobile Club in Damascus have confirmed that four of the front-runners in the 2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship have already entered the sixth round of the series, which takes place in Syria on October 7th-9th, 2010.

Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri heads to Damascus with a 10-point lead in the prestigious eight-round championship, but the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi catapulted himself into contention for a second title in seven years by taking maximum points in last weekend’s Rally of Lebanon.

Defending champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah was forced to miss the Lebanese round of the series because of cross-country rallying commitments with Volkswagen in Russia, but the Qatari re-enters the fray in Syria and will need to reduce a 14-point deficit in the Drivers’ Championship standings if he is to win the regional title for a seventh time in eight seasons. Two events in Cyprus and Dubai will wrap up this year’s series in November and December in what looks set to be one of the closest championship finishes for years.

Hani Shaban, clerk of the course of the 10th Syrian International Rally, also confirmed that MTN has agreed to become an official sponsor for the three-day event, which runs with the full support of the Ministry of Tourism. MTN is a leading GSM telecommuncations company in the region and offers invaluable support to the Discover Syria Rally and now the country’s round of the FIA rally series.

Shaban also announced that SMI, the Sheraton Ma’arat Sednaya, Jupiter Rent-a-Car, Zaman Alkhair, Aldunia television and Al-Madina radio are offering product and media support to the event.

Event officials are hopeful that all the registered championship contenders will tackle the all-desert route, which features new, technical special stages. Three Syrian drivers currently feature on the entry list, with Ahmad Hamsho and Haitham Yousefi leading the local challenge.

The event is based at Sednaya, north of Damascus, for a sixth time and will start in the capital on Thursday, October 7th, with two legs of special stages taking place on Friday, October 8th and Saturday, October 9th.

New special stages planned for Syrian round of MERC

Posted: September 10, 2010 11:14 PM

Officials at the Syrian Automobile Club in Damascus have confirmed that the 10th Syrian International Rally, the sixth round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, will take place on October 7th-9th, 2010.

There has been a break of over four months since the last round of the eight-event series in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Syrian round will follow the forthcoming Rally of Lebanon in mid-September. Syrian event officials are currently putting the finishing touches to a revised route of graded desert special stages.

The event will be based at Sednaya, north of Damascus, for a sixth time and will start in downtown Damascus on Thursday, October 7th, with two legs of special stages taking place on Friday, October 8th and Saturday, October 9th. The rally will run under the patronage of the Syrian Ministry of Tourism.

“We are in the process of finalising a revised route at the moment,” said clerk of the course Hani Shaban. “Some of the stages from last year have been scrapped and we have replaced them with new, more technical stages across the desert.”

The Syrian Rally ran for the first time in 2000 as a candidate event and has been a popular round of the regional championship ever since, although it was cancelled in 2006 because of regional unrest. The UAE’s Mohammed Ben Sulayem won the candidate event and the first two rallies in the MERC.

Cypriot Andreas Tsouloftas emerged victorious from a dramatic rally in 2003 and Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi clinched victory the following year on his way to the regional title. Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah sealed the first of his three wins in 2005 and Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi is the defending champion after claiming victory with French co-driver Matthieu Baumel in 2009.

Event Website

Posted: January 1, 2010 12:01 AM






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