x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Al Attiyah wins Rally Dubai but Al Marri takes title

Emirati drivers had mixed fortunes in their home race. Sheikh Abdullah al Qassimi finished second in a Mitsubishi Evolution 9, but Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi went out with a blown engine

Nasser Saleh al Attiyah speeds through the sand yesterday.
Nasser Saleh al Attiyah speeds through the sand yesterday.

DUBAI // Nasser Saleh al Attiyah cruised to victory in the 32nd Dubai International Rally yesterday but lost his FIA Middle East title to fellow Qatari driver Misfer al Marri.

Al Attiyah vowed to finish in first place after Qatar won the bid to host 2022 World Cup. "It has been a perfect rally and I'm very happy with the result," said al Attiyah. "I'm happy for Misfer as he is the new champion."

Emirati drivers had mixed fortunes in their home race. Sheikh Abdullah al Qassimi finished second in a Mitsubishi Evolution 9, but Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi went out with a blown engine while leading the first leg.

The second leg brought a spectacular premature end to the rally for Rashid al Ketbi. The UAE driver made a flying start to the day, winning the opening stage by 3.4secs from al Attiyah, but then went out of the rally 6.32km into the next stage when his Super Skoda Fabia Evo 2 rolled end over end after hitting a bump at speed.

Al Ketbi and his co-driver Khalid al Kendi were unhurt.

There were no such problems for al Attiyah. Partnered by the Italian Giovanni Bernacchini in a Super 2000 Ford Fiesta, he enjoyed a winning margin of 6mins 16secs.

Needing only to finish in the top six to become the fourth Qatari to win the FIA Middle East championship, al Marri took his Subaru Impreza to third place.

Abdulaziz al Kuwari of Qatar claimed fourth position with a late burst on the final stage, dropping Kuwait's Essam al Nejadi to fifth in the eighth and final round of this year's FIA Middle East series.

It was al Attiyah's 38th rally victory in the championship and his sixth in Dubai. While the six-time Middle East champion has become a prolific winner, al Marri is only the second driver in the history of the regional series to capture the Middle East title without recording a victory in the series. Saudi Arabia's Mamdouh Khayat was the first, in 1992.

Consistency was the key to al Marri's success. He finished second in Qatar, Jordan, Saudi and Cyprus and third in Lebanon and Syria, as well as in Dubai.

* With agencies