·Wahaibi Motor Sports (WMS) gets off to winning debut
·Al-Wahaibi survives early puncture in his Mitsubishi Lancer
·Second place for Khalid Soomar; third overall for Saif Al-Harthy
MUSCAT (Oman): Hamed Al-Wahaibi made a sensational start to his rallying comeback by taking victory in Rally Muscat, an Oman national status rally that started on Thursday and finished on Friday afternoon at the Oman Automobile Associations’s sports complex in Muscat.
“This is a fantastic win for Wahaibi Motor Sports (WMS) on their first appearance and a useful exercise for me and the team,” said Al-Wahaibi. “The rally was very well organised, the stages were superb and there was great sportsmanship among all the competitors.”
The Omani driver tackled two gravel special stages at Arqi and Suwaqim on Friday afternoon and a further two stages repeated three times on Friday at the wheel of his new Wahaibi Motor Sports (WMS)-backed Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.
With 92.7km of gravel stages on offer to test the new Mitsubishi in a route of 309.9km, it was vital that Al-Wahaibi and his Ulster co-driver Terry Harryman, completed the eight-stage route without making a mistake and causing any damage.
Fourteen cars started the event and Al-Wahaibi collected a puncture on the first stage. “Water had been sprayed on the surface to reduce the problem of dust, but it made one particular corner very slippery and the Mitsubishi slid wide and clipped a rock,” said Al-Wahaibi.
The duo dropped around nine seconds to the stage winner, but managed to snatch a five-second advantage at the end of the opening day after setting the fastest time in SS2, with Hamoud Al-Toqi and Khalid Al-Minji in second and third places.
Al-Wahaibi extended his advantage to 1m 09s after the first two stages on Friday morning, with Khaled Soomar, Al-Toqi and Saif Al-Harthy his closest challengers in a trio of other Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions.
The terrain was already taking its toll on the impressive entry and Waleed Al-Khanusi, Ibrahim Al-Abri and Zakariah Al-Amri retired before the final four stages.
Al-Wahaibi’s eventual winning margin was 3m 40s from second-placed Khalid Soomar, with Saif Al-Harthy taking third overall.
“It’s great to be back and what better way to do it than make a winning start,” added a delighted Al-Wahaibi. “It was so useful to get to know the car and work with Allan before the much bigger test next weekend in Dubai.”
Al-Wahaibi and Harryman now head to the United Arab Emirates to take part in next weekend’s Dubai International Rally, the final round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, which will also see Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah battling with the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and Rashid Al-Ketbi for the overall regional title.