By Sports Reporter/Dead Sea, Jordan
Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel cruised through the final six gravel stages to secure a comfortable 15th victory at the 2022 Jordan Rally Saturday.
Driving an Autotek Volkswagen Polo GTi R5 to victory for the third time in Jordan, the Qatari won 11 of the 12 special stages in the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley areas of the Hashemite Kingdom and is now very close to a record-breaking 18th FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) title. The win marked al-Attiyah’s 81st career MERC success and his third of the season, while his Andorra-based co-driver now has 29 victories to his name.
Al-Attiyah, who had a winning margin of 9min 57.6sec, said: “I am really happy to win the Jordan Rally. I have a lot of experience and I have competed a lot here. Thanks to the organisation for making an amazing job. To win 15 times here has not been easy but the team has worked very hard. We need only two or three points from Lebanon and Cyprus. We know we can be strong in every race. We need another Nasser Al-Attiyah in the championship. We need people to continue the Middle East Championship. It is important to us.”
Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah entertains the crowds in Jordan
The Lebanese duo of Alex Feghali and Joseph Matar overcame a minor turbo scare to seal second overall and first in the MERC2 category, the youngster going one better than his third place and second in class in 2021.
“It was a pretty fun weekend and at the end of the first day we had a good of around one minute,” said Feghali. “The game plan today was just to keep the time and that’s exactly what we did. It’s nice to get the second place, my first second place ever and we won the group.”
Defending MERC2 champion Meshari al-Thefiri was unable to catch Feghali on the final day but the Kuwaiti and Qatari co-driver Nasser al-Kuwari collected valuable showroom category points nonetheless, their challenge for the showroom category title boosted by the unfortunate retirement of the series-leading Jordanian Issa Abu Jamous with car damage.
Al-Thefiri said: “It was good for us to finish this rally. We lost many seconds yesterday. Today I pushed to the maximum to catch what I can. We win six stages and Alex wins six. I promise next year we will fix everything to win!”
The Jordanian pairing of Khaled Juma and Tareq al-Taher came home in fourth overall in their Subaru Impreza WRX and claimed victory in the Jordan National Rally after a fierce tussle with fifth-placed Hamada Odeh and Yazan Juma. The crew were separated by just half a second in the battle for fourth and the national category win.
Shadi Shaban and Samer Issa had been given a notional time for the fifth stage on Friday and were able to continue on day two. The Mitsubishi crew reached the finish in sixth overall.
Abdullah al-Rawahi and Jordanian navigator Ata Al-Hmoud had held second overall for the first four stages on Friday and continued to show excellent pace on the final day after restarting in their Škoda Fabia R2 under the Rally2 ruling. The Omani set the fastest time in stage nine and a string of second fastest times enabled him to climb back to seventh overall.
That vital finish for the Omani ensured that Al-Attiyah was mathematically not able to confirm a record-breaking 18th regional title before the next round in Lebanon.
Al-Rawahi said: “It was important to gather some points, especially as we did not finish in Kuwait. This time we had a few dramatic moments, but we managed to come back and the second day was good and the set-up for the car was much better when we went softer. The pace was there as well. Having Nasser in the championship is a great benchmark. He is a world class driver. Every time I try and get closer and closer to him and that is happening and he is always there to support as well. Hopefully in the future we can do what Nasser has been doing!”
Kuwait’s Mohamed al-Thefiri and Suleiman al-Helal were eighth and the Jordanian MERC2 title-chasing Ihab al-Shorafa and Yousef Juma finished ninth and added valuable points to their tally. Yousef al-Dhafeeri and Abedalrahman Shekakwa rounded off the top 10.
Local driver Asem Aref teamed up with Ahmad Jankhout to compete in the MERC3 section in his Renault Clio RS. But the former regional two-wheel drive champion retired in the penultimate stage when the studs on a front wheel sheared and the wheel fell off.
1. Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (AND) Volkswagen Polo GTI Time: 2hr 18min 03.7sec
2. Alex Feghali (LEB)/Joseph Matar (LEB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX; 2hr 28min 01.3sec
3. Meshari al-Thefiri (KWT)/Nasser al-Kuwari (QAT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X; 2hr 28min 23.4sec
4. Khaled Juma (JOR)/Tareq al-Taher (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X; 2hr 37min 27.3sec
5. Hamada Odeh (PSE)/Yazan Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X; 2hr 37min 27.8sec
6. Shadi Shaban (JOR)/Samer Issa (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX; 2hr 39min 30.4sec
7. Abdullah Al-Rawahi (OMN)/Ata Al-Hmoud (JOR) Škoda Fabia R2 evo; 2hr 39min 41.9sec
8. Mohamed al-Thefiri (KWT)/Suleiman Al-Helal (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X; 2hr 48min 11.4sec
9. Ihab al-Shorafa (JOR)/Yousef Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 2hr 52min 43.1sec
10. Yousef al-Dhafeeri (KWT)/Abdulrahman Shekakwe (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X; 4hr 04min 27.4sec