Rally of Lebanon 2011 delivered one of the best sports events of the year in Lebanon. The rally that promised to give us a battle for first place we missed in the past years didn’t let us down and gave us a lot of drama though out. Roger Feghali and Nasser Al Attiyah took their performance and strategies to another level and exhibited non preceded sportsmanship. The scene at the end of SS14 in Kfertai was just amazing, Nasser and Roger congratulating each other for an amazing battle, which will go into Rally of Lebanon history. The picture on the same doesn’t need any comment. Roger was received by his team MotorTune and his fans at the finish line and the moment was amazing.
Back to the rally in details, the night stages were very challenging for all drivers in general. The road was very slippery and saw a lot of mistakes. SS1 saw a close battle up in the front between Roger and Nasser but Roger came on top with less than a second. SS2 was typical to SS1 but saw Nasser coming on top. On SS3 Nasser had a bit of an edge especially on the tight corners and was able to win the stage by around 11 seconds. Roger finished day 1 by winning SS4 by around 4 seconds. The couple was followed closely by Abdo Feghali who was extracting from his EVO 9 more than anyone can imagine. His stage times were much closer to those of his fellow EVO 9 group N drivers as expected. Nicolas Amiouni and Nick Georgiou had a tough and close battle with each other on Friday. The teammates had close stage times and Georgiou came on top after 4 stages. Amiouni had a minor spin at the beginning of SS2 which may have cost him a couple of seconds. The couple was followed by Ziad Feghali on an EVO 9 Joseph Hindy who was a bit further away.
The battle on the second place in the MERC championship was electrifying between Sh. Abdullah Al Qassimi and Rach Al Ketbi. Al Qassimi finished on top after SS4. Antione Helou of Kazan Performance tuning completed the top 10 after a composed drive.
The front wheel category saw a fierce battle too. Fadi Hammadeh was able to beat Ghassan Khoury Narrowly at the end of the day and Robert Aaraj was further a drift.
The 1600 cc category saw Kamal Dargham finishing the day on top after big accident of Joseph Nasr in SS2. Joseph Nasr though was able to win the first stage by a considerable margin.
The first day saw some disappointing retirements. 10 drivers didn’t complete the rally for different reasons varying between accidents and mechanical failure. Tamer Ghandour, Moufid Mubarak, Mazen Tantash, and Joseph Nasr had some unfortunate accidents. Nassib Nassar, Bassel Bou Hamdan, Michel Saleh, Syley and Osmat Saify suffered some mechanical failures.
Day 2 saw early drama when Nasser Al Attiyah punctured his front right tyre. The puncture was a turning point in the rally and dropped him to third behind Roger and Abdo Feghali. Nasser went on to win SS6 and SS7 and lost SS8 by the slightest margins. SS8 though some late drama with Roger Feghali receiving a 20 second penalty ahead of the start of stage after arriving late due to a tyre change. This penalty revived Nasser’s hopes and dropped the overall difference to around 48 seconds at the end of day 2 and leg 1. Abdo Feghali finished the day in 2nd place but a strategic call from his team made him choose to delay his “Park Ferme” entrance and get a 10 seconds penalty in order not to clean the road for Nasser in day 3. The battle between Amiouni and Georgiou continued and Amiouni finished his day on top heading into a promising day 3.
The couple was followed yet again by Ziad Feghali but the unfortunate accident of Joseph Hindy saw Sh. Abdullah Al Qassimi and Rached Al Ketbi finish the day 7th and 8th respectiuvely continuing the battle in the MERC championship. Antione Helou continued his composed drive with veteran co-driver Ziad Chehab and finished the day 9th. The top 10 was completed by Ghassan Khoury who was able to win his battle with Fadi Hammadeh and finish the day around 40 seconds infront on an older spec R3 Maxi. Robert Aarja’s day was disappointing. He suffered from the loss of the intercom between him and Sami Awad. Later on he was unable to match Fadi and Ghassan who was co-driven by French co-driver Cathy Deroussaux.
Kamal Dargham kept his lead in the 1600 cc category ahead of Ziad Karanouh.
The day saw some unfortunate retirements with Joseph Hindy and Jawad Slim from TGRS, and Joe Azzi on his Renault Clio RS.
Day three started with a lot of pressure and expectations. Nasser had to make up 48 seconds in 6 stages. Roger had to stay composed and keep his pace to win the rally. It was a difficult call. Roger though had the advantage although the stage characteristics for Sunday suited the S2000 car. Nasser started the day on high and won the first 2 stages to decrease the difference to 24.6 seconds.
Roger on the other hand was suffering from some brake problems in SS10 and lost the stage by around 17 seconds. It was appearing that the battle will go to the slightest margins. SS11 saw Nasser practically lose the rally. At the end of the stage, Nasser who was suffering a power steering problem, went off the road and lost around 25 to 30 seconds and the overall deficit went back to around 50 seconds. This time 3 stages won’t be enough. Roger drove fantastically fast and composed and clinched the title although Nasser went on to win the last 3 stages. Roger clinched the title with 16.8 seconds to spare. He has become 9 times Rally of Lebanon champion, and this was his 8th consecutive win. Just amazing!!!
Abdo Feghali finished the rally 3rd and was followed by Nick Georgiou. Ziad Feghali completed the TOP 5.
Rached Al Alketbi was able to top Sh. Abdullah Al Qassimi and went on to finish 6th and took 2nd place points for the MERC championship. Ghassan Khoury finished 8th and won the FWD category after an amazing drive throughout the rally. Fadi Hammadeh finished 9th and Hisham Al Abiad completed the top 10. Eddy Abou Karam finished the rally after a composed drive that led him to 11th place. Kamal Dargham won the 1600 cc championship while Ziad and Tarek Melhem finished their first rally of the year.
Day 3 started with 8 drivers competing under the super rally format. The drivers were: Mazen Tantash, Michel Saleh, Jawad Slim, Moufid Mubarak, Joe Azzi, Joseph Nasr and Osmat Al Saify.
Antione Helou had to retire after SS10 were he had a minor accident as well as Mazen Tantash, and Bassel Bou Hamdan. Nicolas Amiouni had an accident in SS9 and had to retire too missing on 4th position after an amazing display.
The 34th edition of ROL was just amazing and could be considered a classic.
Stay tuned for more on this amazing rally…