• Czech Petr Kačirek holds off Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah to finish second
  • Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri seals MERC2 victory with fourth overall

MUSCAT (OMAN): The Oman Rally Team’s Abdullah Al-Rawahi and Jordanian co-driver Ata Al-Hmoud clinched victory in the Oman International Rally for the second time in three years on Saturday.

After pre-event favorite Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah crashed on the opening super special stage, Al-Rawahi hit the front on the first of a dozen gravel stages in the Sultanate of Oman and stayed clear of major trouble, punctures aside, to guide his Škoda Fabia Evo to victory by the margin of 6min 35.6sec. The feat meant the Omani became one of only 15 drivers ever to win more than one round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC).

“It was a great feeling to win my home rally for the first time two years ago and to do it again is very special,” said Al-Rawahi. “This is a perfect start to the championship for us and I would like to thank Ata for his efforts and the team for giving me such a strong car on what was a difficult rally.

The fastest time on the final stage enabled Petr Kačirek and Petra Řiháková to see off a late challenge from Al-Attiyah for second overall and the Czech crew duly sealed the runner-up spot in their Duck Racing Škoda Fabia.

Al-Attiyah and Andorra-based co-driver Mathieu Baumel won 11 of the 13 special stages, but the costly error on the first stage damaged the Volkswagen Golf’s radiator and a subsequent time penalty for a seat belt infringement meant the task was ultimately too much for the Qatari to challenge for the win.

Al-Attiyah reached the finish at the Muscat Drift Arena in third overall to keep the defense of his regional title firmly on track. He may well have caught Kačirek and snatched second had he not suffered a rear right puncture and driven 17km on the shredding tyre to the finish of the final stage. With Kačirek not being registered for the MERC, Al-Attiyah earned points for being the second registered competitor.

After what happened on Thursday, I suppose I am happy enough with the result,” said Al-Attiyah. “But I am disappointed to have the puncture on the last stage when second place was achievable. That’s rallying. I drove for 17km on a rear right puncture.”

Meshari Al-Thefiri and his Qatari co-driver Nasser Al-Kuwari were passed by Al-Attiyah on the afternoon’s loop of stages but the Kuwaiti managed to finish fourth overall and confirm victory in the MERC2 category in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. He had led the event outright on Thursday evening after winning the opening super special stage.

Al-Attiyah’s cousin Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya teamed up with Giovanni Bernacchini to round off the top five in a Ford Fiesta R5, while the Jordanian duo of Shaker Jweihan and female co-driver Nancy Al-Majali finished sixth and second in MERC2.

Kuwait’s Yousef Al-Dhefiri overhauled Jordan’s Sheikh Bader Al-Fayez to claim seventh overall and third in the showroom category.

Jordanian Ihab Al-Shorafa was deprived of a finish after stopping in the final stage.  The Mitsubishi driver’s demise lifted fellow countryman Shadi Shaban into ninth place and Lebanon’s Ahmad Khaled rounded off the top 10. The Omani crew of Abdullah Al-Zubair and Taha Soomar were the last of the finishers in the 11th.  

Ghaith Al-Qasmi and Ahmed Salim sealed victory in the day’s round of the Oman National Championship. The Mitsubishi crew beat Faisal and Yaqdhan Al-Rashdi by 2min 15.8sec. Mutasim and Nofel Al-Balushi came home in third place.

The previous day’s winners, Issa Abu Jamous and Yazan Juma missed out on second place after shedding time in the 12th stage.  The Jordanian crew finished fourth, well clear of fifth-placed Abdullah Al-Toqi and his Austrian co-driver Ilka Minor.

With the exception of Haitham Al-Zadjali, nine national entrants began the one-day round of the Oman National Championship. Salim Al-Toqi and Saif Al-Harthy fell by the wayside after the eighth stage and Mohammed Al-Mazroui retired his Yamaha on stage nine. Musab Soomar was the next retirement on SS11.

Saturday – as it happened

A second-time penalty had ruined any chance Al-Attiyah had of catching Al-Rawahi and the Qatari began the final day in seventh place, trailing the Omani by 11min 27.4sec. Nevertheless, he beat the rally leader by seven seconds in the opening Mulaynah test and climbed above Sheikh Bader Al-Fawaz and into sixth.

Another fastest time followed through the Misfah speed test and Al-Attiyah displaced Jweihan to snatch fifth overall. The top four of Al-Rawahi, Kačirek, Al-Thefiri, and Al-Zubair held station.

When Al-Zubair dropped 12 minutes in the 10th Murayrat stage, following delays trying to change a puncture when the jack failed after an accident, Al-Attiyah climbed to fourth place, although he still trailed Al-Rawahi by 10min 48.2sec.

Even if the five-minute penalty was rescinded by rally officials, it was now virtually impossible for Al-Attiyah to catch the leader, although a place on the podium was well within reach. Al-Rawahi’s impressive morning run meant that he reached the service point leading by 7min 59.4sec.

The re-run of Mulaynah netted Al-Attiyah another fastest stage time and he continued to reel in Al-Thefiri in his quest for a podium finish. The Kuwaiti remained in third place and first in MERC2, but Al-Attiyah reached Misfah trailing the Mitsubishi driver by just 20.9 seconds. The second quickest time enabled Al-Rawahi to increase his advantage over Kačirek to 8min 39.2sec.

The Qatari moved ahead of Al-Thefiri and into third place with another quickest time in Misfah 2. He beat a cautious Al-Rawahi by 18.9 seconds, but the Omani headed for the final stage with an overall lead of 9min 36.9sec.

Even if Al-Attiyah was able to overturn the five-minute penalty that he’d been given on Friday, he was too far behind to post a challenge for victory. Meanwhile, Al-Zubair’s woes continued and the Omani plummeted to the foot of the rankings after stopping again in the penultimate stage.

The fastest time for Kačirek on the final stage ruined Al-Attiyah’s potential clean sweep of all the gravel special stages and enabled the Czech to hang on to second place behind a victorious Al-Rawahi. Al-Attiyah had sustained a rear right puncture and drove 17km to the stage finish.

Action in the regional rally series continues in Qatar on February 16th-18th.

2023 Oman International Rally – positions after SS13:

1. Abdullah Al-Rawahi (OMN)/Ata Al-Hmoud (JOR) Škoda Fabia Evo                  2hr 37min 30.1sec

2. Petr Kačirek (CZE)/Petra Řiháková (CZE) Škoda Fabia                                  2hr 44min 05.7sec

3. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (AND) Volkswagen Polo GTI    2hr 44min 38.0sec

4. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X       2hr 46min 45.7sec

5. Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta R5         2hr 52min 41.2sec

6. Shaker Jweihan (JOR)/Nancy Al-Majali (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X             2hr 54min 07.0sec

7. Yousef Al-Dhefiri (KWT)/Carlos Hanna (LEB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X              2hr 56min 39.1sec

8. Sheikh Bader Al-Fayez (JOR)/Emad Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X         2hr 58min 13.8sec

9. Shadi Shaban (JOR)/Samer Issa (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X                     3hr 15min 17.1sec

10. Ahmad Khaled (LEB)/Samer Sfeir (LEB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX                 3hr 21min 22.0sec

11. Abdullah Al-Zubair (OMN)/Taha Soomar (OMN) Subaru Impreza STi             3hr 26min 23.4sec

13 starters, 11 finishers

2023 Oman National Rally Championship – positions on round 2:

1. Ghaith Al-Qasmi (OMN)/Ahmed Salim OMN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII          1hr 29min 23.5sec

2. Faisal Al-Rashdi (OMN)/Yaqdhan Al-Rashdi (OMN) Subaru Impreza STi           1hr 31min 39.3sec

3. Mutasim Al-Balushi (OMN)/Nofel Al-Balushi (OMN) Yamaha YXZ 1000 R          1hr 32min 03.4sec

4. Issa Abu Jamous (JOR)/Yazan Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX              1hr 32min 32.6sec

5. Abdullah Al-Touqi (OMN)/Ilka Minor (AUT) Toyota Yaris                              1hr 39min 53.8sec


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