MERC: Bahrain: Final report

2002 FIA Middle East Rally Championship Bahrain International Rally 2002 , round 2 of 7 BIN SULAYEM WINS BAHRAIN RALLY TO EXTEND SERIES LEAD Bakhashab survives roll to take second; Al-Qassimi a solid third overall Mohammed bin Sulayem ...

2002 FIA Middle East Rally Championship
Bahrain International Rally 2002 , round 2 of 7

BIN SULAYEM WINS BAHRAIN RALLY TO EXTEND SERIES LEAD

Bakhashab survives roll to take second; Al-Qassimi a solid third overall

Mohammed bin Sulayem completed a hat-trick of successive victories in the Zayani Motors Mitsubishi Bahrain International Rally to extend his advantage in the FIA Middle East rally championship to 12 points after two rounds.

Bin Sulayem and co-driver John Spiller held the advantage from the second timed section and duly extended his lead to an emphatic 5m 25s at the finish, despite a serious power steering problem at the start of the final day. "We lost the power steering at the worst time, on the first section of the first of three stages and had to drive all three like this," admitted a delighted 13-times regional champion. "I told the mechanics on the radio what we needed to fix the damage and they did a great job at service. I was fortunate that Abdullah (Bakhashab) lost time as well and the others hit problems at the same time."

Saudi Arabian driver Bakhashab and his Ulster co-driver Bobby Willis had led the event after the second stage on Thursday, but they soon fell behind the charging Bin Sulayem and the contest was all but settled in the 11th section. Bakhashab, aware that Bin Sulayem was in trouble, pushed a little too hard, duly inverted his Toyota Corolla WRC for several minutes and slipped still further behind his great rival. "I saw that Mohammed had a problem in the 11th stage and it was my incentive to push very hard to try and take as much time as possible," said Bakhashab. "But I guess I pushed too hard and we rolled and lost a few minutes. Then we had a flat tyre before the service and lost time with a broken wheel rim. The car needs more development over the fast bumpy sections and we will carry out a special test after the rally to improve this."

Sharjah's Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, driving a second Ford Focus WRC supported by Adnoc and the Saif-Zone Sharjah, had benefitted from the 10th stage retirement of Qatar's Hamed Al-Sowaidi with engine, radiator and turbo problems. But Al-Qassimi suffered electrical maladies himself soon after and was not able to capitalise on the problems affecting both Bakhashab and Bin Sulayem. He eventually finished third overall to consolidate second position in the FIA regional championship. "Problems again today," said Abdullah. "We stopped in SS11 and I wasn't sure what was wrong. We changed the computer and it seemed to do the trick. It was frustrating, because it came at a time when we could push."

Abdullah's brother Khalid Al-Qassimi controlled proceedings in the Group N category at the wheel of his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6, despite completing two stages on Thursday with no turbocharger. It was his second successive victory in the section and gives him a maximum 20 points in the Group N championship.

Qatar's Misfer Al-Marri was fifth and second in Group N in a similar car, while Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al-Sabban, Bahrain's leading runner Abdulrahman Ghuloom, Kuwaiti Meshal Al-Nejadi, FIA Super 1600 section winner Ron Oakeley and Cypriot Nearchos Nearchou completed a depleted top 10.

Only 12 of the 28 starters finished the gruelling two-day rally, with Kuwait's Mohammed Al-Sarraf, Qatar's Mubarak Al-Hajri and Bahrain's Hassan Al-Sadadi among those to fall foul of mechanical problems on Thursday. The UAE's Michel Saleh lost sixth place on day two with head gasket damage. We didn't complete one special stage yesterday without problems," groaned Saleh. "It all started when we broke the propshaft and smashed the casing on a rock and then it got even worse. This morning the car was running fine and we intended to push, but the head gasket failed and that was the end."

The third round of the FIA Middle East rally championship will be the Jordan International Rally in May.

-rally-net.20m.com-

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Bobby Willis , Khalid Al-Qassimi , Michel Saleh