MERC: Qatar Rally Team Lebanon summary

"Al-Attiyah retires from Lebanon Rally." The Qatar Rally Team have maintained their advantage over principle rival Abdullah Bakhashab in the 2003 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, after a dramatic Marlboro Rally of Lebanon last ...

"Al-Attiyah retires from Lebanon Rally."

The Qatar Rally Team have maintained their advantage over principle rival Abdullah Bakhashab in the 2003 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, after a dramatic Marlboro Rally of Lebanon last weekend.

Promoting the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, the Qatar National Bank and Al Jazeera Satellite TV backed team of Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and English co-driver Steve Lancaster (Selby, Yorkshire) had been determined to collect as many points as possible from the all tarmac rally held near Beirut.

Main championship rival Abdullah Bakhashab looked to be one of the favourites for success in Lebanon in his Peugeot 206 WRC, but amazingly the car rolled off the road on the first stage of leg two and had to retire. All this was great news for Al-Attiyah, who had started steadily in the ex-Tommi Makinen Subaru Impreza WRC 2002 car. Nasser held a steady third after the opening exchange of stages, and looked comfortable as he tried to claim as many points as possible on an event that had not been kind to him before.

Some minor suspension and handling changes were made to the Autotek Motorsport run car at service, and Nasser immediately felt at home on his first ever tarmac outing in the car. At the front, Lebanese brothers and local experts Roger and Abdo Feghali were having their own personal battle for the lead of the event, and Al-Attiyah was happy to take a watching brief on their progress in the Pirelli shod Subaru.

Unfortunately, on the fifth test of the event, the world class skeet shooter from Doha damaged the suspension of the Subaru after a slight off in the stage. Al-Attiyah and Lancaster inspected the front right damage to the car at the stage finish, and although the car was damaged, it should have been possible to get through the next stage and back to service to repair the car.

However, luck was not with the talented five times former Qatar National Rally champion this time. Despite nursing the car through the following test, a track control arm broke on the Subaru, leaving the car virtually impossible to steer. Bitterly disappointed, Al-Attiyah had no option but to retire the Subaru on the spot, and a chance to consolidate their excellent championship position had gone:

"Yes, its very disappointing to have to retire" commented Nasser. "The car was performing well and we were comfortable in third place. It makes it more frustating as Abdullah also retired on the event. It was an opportunity to build a stronger position, but the points gap between Bakhashab and ourselves remains the same. We are now just one point off the lead of the FIA Middle East Championship so I would think that the Rally of Jordan will be a major battle, and I'm very confident of my chances in the desert as opposed to tarmac.

The heat will be a major issue with the rally running in July this year, but the rally itself is excellent and one that I am very much looking forward to. We will be trying very hard to make up for the disappointment of not scoring any points this weekend, that is for sure."

The 50th running of the Jordan International Rally gets underway on Thursday July 24th, with a specially designed spectator friendly stage in Amman. From there crews will tackle a diverse selection of stages, including the faster sections out in the desert region, and the more technical challenges of mountain stages near to Mount Nebo.

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Series Other rally
Drivers Tommi Makinen