MERC: Qatar: Season opener summary

Nasser Al-Attiyah Romps To Emphatic Qatar Rally Victory Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and new Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson coasted to an emphatic victory in the 2004 NBKS Qatar International Rally, which finished in Doha . Al-Attiyah...

Nasser Al-Attiyah Romps To Emphatic Qatar Rally Victory

Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and new Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson coasted to an emphatic victory in the 2004 NBKS Qatar International Rally, which finished in Doha .

Al-Attiyah lost the lead briefly in the fourth stage to Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari when he was forced to drive the section with broken rear suspension. But his Autotek mechanics changed the cross member and suspension arms at the major service point at the end of the first leg and gave the Subaru a full overhaul before Saturday's final six stages.

"The stages today were a lot smoother than the first leg," admitted Nasser. "There was no need for me to push at all. The mechanics were forced to work hard on the car on Friday and I wanted to pay them back by taking no risks today. It is fantastic for me to win the Qatar Rally for the second successive year. Now I must switch my attention to Mexico next month and try and improve on my last result in the World Championship in Sweden."

Hamed Al-Sowaidi's chances of catching his QRT team mate were shattered at a Stewards' meeting late on Friday evening. The Qatari was awarded eight minutes of time penalties for GPS route infringements and began the second leg 6m 49s behind the defending regional champion, despite the fact that Al-Attiyah was also awarded six minutes of penalties. Al-Sowaidi finished over 10 minutes behind Al-Attiyah after 14 timed stages.

Syria's Khalifa Haifa finished in a career-best fourth overall in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6, despite losing the final podium place to third-placed Qatar's Abdullah Al-Kuwari over the closing stages. Bahrain's Abdulrahman Ghuloom was fifth, England's David Scialom enjoyed his first taste of the desert to reach the finish in sixth and Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah was seventh.

"It was a really enjoyable and very well organised rally," said Ghuloom. "The stages were well marshalled and the timing and results were excellent. It was obvious that the organisers had put in a great deal of time and effort to make sure that this event returned to the Middle East Championship in 2005."

All three ladies taking part survived the rigours of the desert and Germany's Heiderose Mossen led the way in eighth position, despite a minor collision with Syrian rival Abir Fudail at the end of the opening leg.

Qatar's Nada Zaidan was the first Qatari female in history to take part in an international rally. She drove in a mature and professional manner to reach the finish in ninth overall. Fudail's 10th-placed Renault Clio won the 1600 section.

"This morning I made the decision to drive very carefully," said Zaidan. "I just wanted to finish this race. It has been fantastic to compete here. Hopefully I have shown the lead for other Muslim women who want to take part in motorsport in the Middle East."

"It was a successful and exciting rally," said Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, President of the QMMF. "Once again the Qatar Rally proved to be difficult and each one of the finishers can be proud of their achievements. We are looking forward to our return to the FIA Middle East Rally Championship in 2005. The revisions we made to this year's event were particularly successful and I thank all the marshals and officials for their hard work and continued support."

The bulk of the retirements occured during the opening leg. Qatar's Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari lost a potential second place when a suspension strut collapsed and severed a fuel line on SS8, Bahrain's Hassan Al-Sadadi blew his Subaru's engine and Kenya's Harvinder Singh Jutley lost engine compression and was forced out.

-duby miller

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Nasser Al-Attiyah , David Scialom , Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari