MERC: Qatar Rally Team Dubai Rally leg one summary

Qatar Rally Team lead driver Nasser Al-Attiyah is sitting pretty on the very top of tonight's Dubai International Rally leaderboard. The Doha man holds an extremely convincing 4 min 50 secs advantage over second placed Abdulla Al Qassimi, with ...

Qatar Rally Team lead driver Nasser Al-Attiyah is sitting pretty on the very top of tonight's Dubai International Rally leaderboard. The Doha man holds an extremely convincing 4 min 50 secs advantage over second placed Abdulla Al Qassimi, with Group N Qatar Rally Team driver Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari keeping his Group N Championship hopes alive in third place overall and second Group N.

Al-Attiyah, supported by Qatar National Bank and co-driven by Englishman Steve Lancaster, has dominated the rally so far. Fastest on all of today's stages, held in typical warm desert conditions, Al-Attiyah was able to cool his pace significantly for the final loop of stages. Despite the relaxed approach, Nasser still took 30 seconds from his nearest rival on the final 24 kilometre stage.

Driving the S9 Subaru Impreza WRC for the first time, Al-Attiyah was delighted with his start to the rally. The brand new machine has performed without problem on the rally so far, with Nasser particularly impressed with the car's ability in very rough and very sandy conditions. As a result of this confidence, the Doha man was untouchable on today's stages.

Speaking at the final control after completing seven of the rallies 16 special stages to the South East of Dubai, Al-Attiyah was positive after a dream first day in the Subaru.

"I could not ask for more today. The car has worked perfectly, and the set up we have makes the conditions much easier to cope with. We really have not had any problems at all today. The car works really well in all conditions, but in particular, it can cope with the bumpy roads much better than the older version of the car. I'm very keen to win this rally to complete what has been an excellent year, so I'm determined to stay out of trouble tomorrow and keep a clean line where I can. Even on some stages today, we were driving at around 50-60%, so I'm sure I will do the same tomorrow. It was a shame that three of the other leading drivers retired, but we must drive our own rally and remain focused on the job. So far, so good".

Three of Nasser's rivals have fallen foul of the desert conditions today. Mohammed Hamsho spectacularly rolled his ex-works Ford Focus WRC out of the rally on the third stage, whilst Khaled Al Qassimi also rolled heavily on the very first stage. Cypriot driver Andreas Tsouloftas started well, but succumbed to a cracked oil pipe after SS5.

In third place overall is young Qatari star of the future Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari. The youngster is doing all he can to try and lift the FIA Middle East Group N crown. Al-Kuwari requires second placed overall (and Group N leader) Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi to retire from the rally tomorrow in order for him to lift the title. The Qatar Rally Team driver has had an eventful day - made all the more exciting by the rear wing parting company from the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6. As a result, the car's handling became seriously bad on the high speed straights, with the rear end literally driving itself at times. Fortunately, Andreas Tsouloftas sportingly lent his rear wing off his retired car, and the 23 year old was able to finish the day in a strong third place overall.

-je/qrt-

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Series RALLY