August 12, 2015 – With Nasser Al-Attiyah announcing his absence from the 37th Rally of Lebanon, the majority of Lebanese motorsport fans expected the usual Feghali domination, but it was never the case, with the 2014 Rally of Lebanon delivering plenty of unexpected drama and outstanding action. Let’s take a look at how the event unfolded and hope for a similarly exciting rally next month.
As expected, it was Roger Feghali who drew first blood, clocking the fastest time in the Super Special Stage (SS1) that was held in Beirut Waterfront on Thursday evening. Abdo Feghali was second fastest, followed by Eddy Abou Karam.
The drama kicked off on Friday when 10-time Lebanese Rally Champion Roger Feghali went off in the opening special stage that was taking place on a 17-kilometer course in Blat, forcing him to retire from the event and handing the lead to his brother Abdo. Roger’s dominant run of victories at Rally of Lebanon officially came to an end, unable to secure an 11th consecutive triumph.
However, things didn’t go according to plan for new 37th Rally of Lebanon leader Abdo Feghali who picked up a puncture in SS3 – Ain Ayya, thus handing the lead to Eddy Abou Karam, before eventually crashing his Mitsubishi Evo X on Friday’s closing special stage (SS4 – Sourat) and ending his chances of winning Rally of Lebanon for the first time in his career.
A broken driveshaft for Eddy Abou Karam (Mitsubishi Evo X) in SS4 cost him the lead, and it was Rabih Ayoub (Mitsubishi Evo IX) who lead the timesheet at the end of a chaotic first day, 16 seconds ahead of Nicolas Amiouni (Mitsubishi Evo X), and more than 30 seconds clear of third-placed man Rodrigue Rahi (Mitsubishi Evo IX).
Henry Massaad was fourth overall, a minute and a half off of Ayoub, and first in the front wheel drive category in his Renault Clio R3.
Ayoub’s joy didn’t last long, with Nicolas Amiouni taking the lead on Saturday morning and the former unable to fight back as he suffered from a puncture in SS7 (Ain Ayya). Amiouni then began to extend the gap to his rivals, completing the third and penultimate day more than a minute ahead of everyone else.
More drama unfolded on the fourth and final day, but it was in the front-wheel drive class this time. Robert Aaraj took 2nd place from Bassel Abu Hamdan who hit trouble in SS8; three stages later, Aaraj took the FWD class lead as Henry Massaad picked up two punctures and lost a significant chunk of time. However, Aaraj’s lead was short-lived when his Citroen DS3 caught fire in SS12, and was therefore forced to relinquish the lead to Bassel Abu Hamdan.
After a roller coaster of a rally, Nicolas Amiouni clinched victory in the 37th Rally Of Lebanon – the first of his career – ahead of Rodrigue Rahi and Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, who both benefited from mechanical failure for Rabih Ayoub to finish 2nd and 3rd overall respectively.
Bassel Abu Hamdan went on to take the front-wheel drive class victory ahead of Elie Nehme and Bechara Bechir.
Germany’s Edith Weiss successfully completed the rally to take the Ladies Cup, while Qatar’s Abdullah Al Kuwari was the only Arab driver – other than Abdulaziz – to finish in the top 10, securing sixth place overall.
The 37th Rally of Lebanon was without a doubt one of the most unpredictable and entertaining rallies in recent history, and we can only hope that the 38th edition will keep the ball rolling.