Mohammed Ben Sulayem took his Ford Focus World Rally Car to an emphatic victory in the Jordan International Rally today to tighten his grip on the FIA Middle East Championship. The Arab world's leading driver reached the finish in Amman this ...
Mohammed Ben Sulayem took his Ford Focus World Rally Car to an emphatic victory in the Jordan International Rally today to tighten his grip on the FIA Middle East Championship. The Arab world's leading driver reached the finish in Amman this afternoon with a 6 mins 26 secs cushion over second-placed Qatari Hamad Al Sowaidi, who pushed Sharjah's Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi into third position to top the Group N production class.
It was Ben Sulayem's fourth successive win in this year's Middle East series, the reliability of the Ford Focus WRC giving him a commanding lead in what is, so far, a perfect season for the 12-times champion who continues to extend rallying's best winning record.
He scored his first international win in Jordan back in 1984, and this was his 53rd success in the Middle East Championship.
The win also gave his co-driver, Khaled Zakaria, the honour of becoming the first Jordanian to taste victory in the Hashemite Kingdom's round of the Middle East series. It also kept Ford firmly on course for another manufacturers' and drivers' title double.
"The car was perfect, and I had no problems at all," said Ben Sulayem. "Just as a precaution, we reduced the power by about 20% today because I had a good lead overnight. I was testing some new Pirelli tyres for Ford for the World Championship Safari Rally, and they were excellent."
While Ben Sulayem remained in total control in his Ford Focus WRC, Al Sowaidi was initially pushed hard today by Al Qassimi in his new SAIF-Zone Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6, as the Sharjah driver chased his fourth consecutive Group N win of the season.
But after moving to within 44 seconds of Al Sowaidi on the day's first of four special stages, Al Qassimi immediately lost a minute to the Qatari on the next stage, and had to settle for third place, although he still holds a big lead in the Middle East Group N title race.
The major last leg casualties were Bahrain's Hassan Al Sadadi and Qatar's Abdullah Al Kuwari, who both lost their grip on sixth place. Sadadi was first to suffer as a major oil leak put his Subaru out on the day's opening stage, while mechanical problems on the final stage dropped Al Kuwari to eighth.
Britain's Amrik Sehmbi won the 1600 class , a result which boosts his hopes of a second successive Middle East Super 1600 title. Jordan's Nancy Al Majali, the last of 11 finishers, earned the ladies' prize.
After almost losing its Middle East Championship place following problems with safety last year, the new-look Jordan International Rally has made a highly successful turnaround.