March 25, 2016 – Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah may well be able to hit the cruise control button on the final leg of the Kuwait International Rally, after he surged into a staggering lead of 6min 23.2sec after six timed special stages in the southern Kuwait deserts on Friday.
He and French navigator Matthieu Baumel were never troubled during a faultless day, where their Skoda Fabia R5 won every stage to take firm control and push the 11-time regional champion towards a record sixth win in Kuwait.
A fierce desert battle raged behind the leading drivers in the MERC 2 class that could well become the highlight of the regional championship this year.
Yigit Timur began to up his pace as the day progressed and the Turk snatched the MERC 2 lead and second overall at the end of the sixth stage in a Tok Sport Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. By the end of the leg, that advantage was a mere 4.1 seconds.
Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri produced the standout local performance of the day in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X to hold third overall and second in MERC 2, despite a minor incident on the second stage when he damaged the intercooler.
Qatar’s Rashed Al-Nuami and Italian navigator Nicola Arena were fourth and third in MERC 2 and Al-Attiyah’s brother Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Cypriot navigator Savvas Laos rounded off the top five in their Subaru Impreza.
The Lebanese duo of Rodolphe Asmar and experienced co-driver Joseph Matar held sixth and Saudi rookie Rakan Al-Rashed and Finnish navigator Jarkko Kalliolepo were seventh. Germany’s Edith Weiss and the Kuwaiti duo of Saleh Ali and Elie Chachati rounded off the 10 survivors.
Qatar’s Khaled Al-Suwaidi and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini were a comfortable second in their Ford Fiesta R5 until they lost over five minutes with a broken gearbox in stage five and slipped to eighth overall. Ongoing problems cost them further time before they retired before stage seven.
Tomorrow (Saturday), teams tackle the remaining six desert special stages of the event, commencing with the first of two runs through the 16.61km of the Bnaider stage. The ceremonial finish is scheduled for 16.30hrs outside the Safir Hotel and Residences in Fintas, south of Kuwait City.
2016 Kuwait International Rally – positions after SS7:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Skoda Fabia R5 1hr 09min 36.1sec
2. Yigit Timur (TUR)/Ufuk Uluocak (TUR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1hr 15min 59.3sec
3. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1hr 16min 03.4sec
4. Rashed Al-Nuami (QAT)/Nicola Arena (ITA) Subaru Impreza 1hr 16min 28.2sec
5. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Savvas Laos (CYP) Subaru Impreza 1hr 16min 42.6sec
6. Rodolphe Asmar (LEB)/Joseph Matar (LEB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1hr 18min 18.3sec
7. Rakan Al-Rashed (SAU)/Jarkko Kalliolepo (FIN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1hr 20min 18.9sec
8. Edith Weiss (DEU)/Anne Stein (DEU) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1hr 30min 08.0sec
9. Saleh Ali (KWT)/Othman Hamdar (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII 1hr 30min 38.3sec
10. Elie Chachati (KWT)/Naji Sfeir (LEB) Subaru Impreza 1hr 33min 58.7sec