Lusail, Qatar – Oman’s Abdullah al Rawahi and his Jordanian co-driver Ata al Hmoud proved that winning last year’s regional title was no fluke as they climbed from fifth to the bottom step of the podium in an Autotek-run Skoda in the Qatar International Rally on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Pierre-Louis Loubet and Loris Pascaud delivered a masterclass performance on their desert debut and overcame late damper issues and a couple of time penalties for contact with stage surround fencing to secure a memorable victory.
Norway’s Mads Ostberg and his Swedish co-driver Patrik Barth delivered a late charge over the afternoon loop of three short stages but missed out on the win by just 4.6 seconds.
Al Rawahi, who picked up valuable MERC points into the bargain, was delighted with his effort.
Al Rawahi said: “This result is good for the championship and good points. Today was fantastic. We did some small mistakes yesterday but we managed to get back from fifth to third. We pushed hard. It is a good result. The team worked really hard to give me a better car today and it worked.”
The result meant that no Qatari crew featured on the podium on their home event for the first time since the mid-1990s.
QMMF-backed Qatari Abdulaziz Al Kuwari and Irish co-driver James Fulton slipped back from third to finish fourth in their Sarrazin-supplied Volkswagen Polo GTi. Former event winner Nasser Khalifa al Atya and Lebanon’s Ziad Chehab were a distant fifth in their Motortune Ford Fiesta MkII.
An overnight 30-minute time penalty obliterated Nasser Saleh al Attiyah’s chance of winning his home event for an 18th time but the Qatari and his co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini pushed hard to climb through the tail end of the field. Nasser made it as far as ninth overall but the finish in Lusail Boulevard was a bridge too far and the winner of three stages broke a damper and retired on the last stage to cap a miserable weekend.
The Jordanian crew of Shaker Jweihan and Mustafa Juma completely dominated the MERC2 category in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. They finished sixth overall and 9min 04.5sec ahead of their nearest production class rivals, Shadi Shaban and Samer Issa.
Husam Salim and Nancy Al Majali came home in eighth and third in MERC2 and Qatar’s Rashid Al-Muhannadi teamed up with Omani Taya al Zadjali to finish ninth. The Jordanian duo of Ihab Al Shorafa and Yousef Juma rounded off the top 10.
Emirati-based Indian Saneem Payyaakkal and his co-driver Musa Sherif have registered for the MERC and are competing in the new MERC4 category for two-wheel drive machines in their Ford Fiesta Rally4. They finished 14th.