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Attiyah hits the ground running at Jordan Rally

By JT - Apr 26,2018 - Last updated at Apr 26,2018

DEAD SEA — Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah cruised to the fastest time of 1min 35.9sec through the 1.71km Vestel super special stage that kick-started the 2018 FIA Middle East Rally Championship on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan Thursday afternoon, according to the Jordan Rally Media Service.

The Ford Fiesta R5 driver is chasing a 14th regional title and a record-equalling 12th win in Jordan. He and French navigator Mathieu Baumel will take a lead of just 1.4 seconds over the Czech duo of Vojtach Stajf and Marketa Skacelová into the gravel stages on Friday after tackling the opening stage in torrential rain. The Skoda Fabia R5 crew are taking part in the Hashemite Kingdom for the first time. 

“This is only my second gravel rally after the Shiraz International in Iran last year,” said Štajf. “I was talking to Nasser there last year and he suggested that I take part in some rallies in the Middle East. I am a tarmac driver but I approached my sponsors and here we are. The goal is not to try and beat Nasser. The goal is to learn as much as I can and be as close to him as I can on these very difficult stages.”

Cars were flagged away from the ceremonial start podium by HRH Prince Feisal, chairman of Jordan Motorsport, in gloomy weather conditions, as dark storm clouds gathered menacingly in the Dead Sea area. 

Minutes earlier, Attiyah, Meshari Al Thefiri, Abdullah Al Ruwaihi, Vojtech Stajf, Ahmad Shaban and Asem Aref attended an official Question and Answer session with the media on the start podium. 

First blood in the competitive MERC 2 category fell to Kuwait’s Thefiri after the rain began to intensify as the stage progressed and was falling heavily with sporadic thunder and lightning for the later cars through the super special stage. Jordan’s Shaban finished the stage three seconds behind the Kuwaiti and Khaled Juma was a further 1.8 seconds adrift. 

Twenty-one-year old Omani Rawahi completed his first ever MERC stage in seventh position after stalling close to the stage finish. The rookie said: “We saw the stages on the recce and they are really amazing. The first one will be really tough tomorrow. We will have to take care. They are nice and flowing and beautiful in the mountains.

“This is a really good opportunity for me. The stages here are cleaner than Oman, where they are a bit rougher and more technical. My strategy is to finish the rally and keep the car safe. This is my first rally. I have been karting for about ten years and I decided to move into cars and rallying was the best option for me. I have very little experience of rallying at home but I will be learning a lot here.”

Lebanon’s Henry Kahy and Jordanian co-driver Musa Djiyerian got their regional rallying campaign in a Group A Skoda Fabia under way with the eighth quickest time.

Local driver Aref, co-driven by Faris Tal, guided his little two-wheel drive Renault Clio RX safely through the opener at the rear of the field.

Amir Tareq Al Taher, Zeid Miqdad, Salameh Al Gammaz and Raed Al Edwan are tackling the second round of the Jordan National Championship and additional points are available this weekend. 

Taher clocked the fastest time in the saturated opening super special stage to lead Gammaz by 12.6 seconds. Edwan left the track and rolled in the slippery conditions and lost over two and a half minutes.

On Friday, crews will tackle two runs through three special stages, commencing with the 19km of the Mahes test at 10:04am. Palms (30.2km) and the Baptism Site (11.7km) follow at 10:47ams and 11:45am, respectively. 

The three stages are repeated in the afternoon at 13.25pm, 14.03pm and 15.01pm after a return to the Dead Sea service area at lunchtime. 

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