Losail, Qatar: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh al Attiyah overcame the most difficult challenge of his career at the Qatar International Rally to record a 16th victory at his home event and achieve a stunning milestone of 80 wins in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) since 2003.
Driving his customary Autotek Volkswagen Polo GTI, Attiyah only hit the front on the eighth of 12 gravel special stages in the Qatar deserts and survived a front puncture in stage nine to press home his advantage over the final three stages. Mads Østberg pushed him all the way to the penultimate stage, but Attiyah hung on doggedly and eventually secured a winning margin of 4min 38.4sec after the Norwegian retired.
Oman’s Abdullah al Rawahi was patient and stayed clear of trouble as chaos ensued around him. He and Jordanian co-driver Ata al Hmoud were rewarded with a stunning second place in their Oman Rally Team-run Škoda Fabia R2 evo and useful championship points.
Rawahi said, “Quite happy. The guys in front were pushing too much and a few of them had technical problems. I was trying to be clean and take advantage of anyone who made mistakes. Overall, on the second day, the times were quite close and I am happy with my performance. It was really important that we finished second.”
“It is a good feeling,” said Attiyah, who duly extended his lead in the regional series. “I am really happy to win Qatar Rally. This is my home and in front of my people. This was not an easy race. It was tricky. The pace that we did from yesterday to today, me and Kris and Mads, was very hard. This was a fantastic win. I was trying to keep one pace. It was amazing..”