Qatar's Al-Attiyah cruises into comfortable Jordan Rally lead (2024)

Dead Sea, Jordan: Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini won four of the day’s six special stages to comfortably lead the Jordan Rally on Friday afternoon.

The Qatari is running a new Autotek Motorsport-prepared Škoda Fabia RS for the first time and overcame a spin on stage two to gradually get to grips with the machine and try out various settings on his way to a 1min 05.7sec overnight lead.

Defending champion Abdullah Al-Rawahi teamed up with local codriver Ata Al-Hmoud and led in his Škoda Fabia after two stages, but suffered radiator and possible engine damage after an accident on the first pass through the Baptism Site stage.

But, once the Omani had retired, Al-Attiyah was able to manage his pace and stay clear of fellow countryman Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and his British co-driver Marshall Clarke in their second-placed QMMF-backed Škoda Fabia. Al-Kuwari was also the highest-placed of the drivers registered in the Jordan National Championship and was quickest on the third stage.

Qatar's Al-Attiyah cruises into comfortable Jordan Rally lead (1)

Al-Attiyah said: “After Qatar Rally, we retired and we knew we needed to be clever here. We knew Jordan is a very tough race. I tried to manage stage-by-stage. On the first loop this morning we had one big spin and we decided to change a little bit the clicks (suspension). I am quite happy to finish day one with a good lead and we try to learn the new car for tomorrow. We need to feel the pressure but we need to be smart here. The stages are rebuilt with loose gravel – an amazing job by the organisation. No risks now tomorrow.”

Al-Kuwari added: “Very difficult day. There is no time to close your eyes during the stages. The moment you lose your concentration it is very difficult. The speed is coming and the gap is not very good in each stage. I know where I am losing time and that is a good sign. Tomorrow is a longer day and that will not be easy.”

After his accident, Al-Rawahi said: “The first two stages were quite good. We struggled a bit with the grip but that was for all. In the third, we retired from the rally after the finish. I think I have a problem with the engine. We will check it when the car comes back. Overall, I am happy and sad at the same time. The pace was there but we had to retire. Let’s see if we can continue tomorrow to get some points for the championship.

“This is rallying. We reached a corner where it was tightening and it was quite narrow. I misjudged it and went a bit too fast and went sideways and had to turn the other way so I didn’t end up flipping. We got the damage and we tried to make the finish but we had to stop. We had an alarm.”

Jordanian driver Shaker Jweihan was the class of the rest of the field and comfortably led the MERC2 category with Lebanese co-driver Carlos Hanna. Jwerihan reached the overnight halt at the Dead Sea 1min 52.5sec in front of fourth-placed Denis Krotov and Yury Kulikov. More importantly, they were over 3min 20sec clear of their closest MERC2 rivals Shadi Shaban and Samer Issa.

Jweihan said: “Today was amazing and according to plan. We said we would push on the first stage and see where we stood. We didn’t risk anything. The stages were quite rough. There were a lot of rocks, no issues. The guys in front are too fast and we have nothing to gain by pushing. All is well.”

Qatar's Al-Attiyah cruises into comfortable Jordan Rally lead (2)

Sheikh Bader Al-Fayez drove his new Škoda for the first time at a MERC event with Lebanese star co-driver Joseph Matar and stayed clear of trouble to hold fifth place.

MERC drivers Issa Abu Jamous and Husam Salem held seventh and eighth in their Mitsubishis, Qatari Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya (Ford) was ninth and Ameer Nassif rounded off the top 10 and held fifth in MERC2. Local drivers Ihab Al-Shorafa and Fadi Dahshan were 11th and 12th.

Qatar's Al-Attiyah cruises into comfortable Jordan Rally lead (3)

Qatar’s Khalid Al-Suwaidi crashed out of the running on the opening stage and Palestine’s Hamada Odeh rolled his Mitsubishi Lancer near the start of the third special.

Friday – as it happened

The Mount Nebo area hosted the opening Panorama and Bahath stages before competitors return to the Dead Sea area to complete the morning’s loop with a pass through the Baptism Site special.

Al-Attiyah carried out road-sweeping duties, although he tried to persuade rally officials to have Al-Rawahi running first on the road. Stage openers can have a distinct disadvantage on gravel rallies over seldomly used tracks where the opening vehicles sweep loose stones, sand and detritus off the surface. The Qatari laid down the gauntlet with a run of 11min 44.5sec, however, and beat his rival by 4.6 seconds.

Al-Kuwari was 23.4 seconds adrift of his fellow countryman but QMMF team-mate Khalid Al-Suwaidi’s return to Jordan was short-lived: the Qatari crashed his SRT-run Škoda heavily midway through the stage and tore off a wheel and suspension strut. Krotov began his MERC debut strongly and slotted into fifth overall behind runaway early MERC2 front-runner Jweihan. Ameer Nassif held second in MERC2 and sixth place.

A first pass through the Bahath stage was next on the agenda. A stunning run by Al-Rawahi saw the Omani beat Al-Attiyah by 15.8 seconds to move into an 11.2-second lead. The Qatari spun early in the stage and was forced to turn around.

Al-Kuwari consolidated third by finishing 2.7 behind his fellow countryman. Jweihan continued to dominate the MERC2 battle and maintained fourth overall but Nassif dropped over four minutes and plummeted out of contention.

Al-Attiyah completed the late morning’s loop of three stages with a time of 6min 12.5sec through the Baptism Site and headed for the regroup and midday service at the Dead Sea leading Al-Rawahi by 16.1 seconds after the Omani finished the stage with front and right-hand damage to his Škoda.

But the crew were forced to throw in the towel at the end of the stage with radiator and possible engine damage and co-driver Ata Al-Hmoud complaining of some back pain. The series leader and defending champion will hope to restart on Saturday if the car is not too badly damaged.

Al-Kuwari claimed the stage win and closed to within 5.3 seconds of the Omani. Jweihan was third quickest to extend his already comfortable cushion in MERC2.

A lunchtime return to the service park preceded a repeat run through each of the three speed tests and a short blast through a 3.3km super special at the Dead Sea.

Al-Attiyah said: “It’s very interesting. We learn about the new car and we tried to get the good set-up for the afternoon. We change everything just to be sure to make sure we are in a good way. I am happy. We have a good lead and we try to manage the second loop and see where we are. I did two mistakes and a spin. We are in a good way. Now we can do many things and to learn.”

Al-Kuwari duly moved up to second place. He said: “Not the best feeling to be honest. The confidence is not 100% there. I think I am way for a long time. It’s getting there step-by-step. The stages are very slippery. The grip is very low and the corners are blind in Jordan and there is no reference on every corner on the crests. Our notes are good. Three stages and we won the last one. It’s a very long time since I won a stage in the Middle East. We will have to play it clever and save the tyres. Marshall (Clarke) This is one of the most difficult rallies in the world, especially for co-drivers.”

MERC2 leader Jweihan held third overall. He said: “The first loop was amazing, honestly. The roads are so slippery. R5s have pulled rocks into the track. All’s good and the car’s good. All’s well.”

Al-Attiyah eased his pace on the re-run of Panorama but was still able to increase his advantage over Al-Kuwari to 36.8 seconds. Jweihan consolidated third and a comfortable lead in MERC2 with Krotov and Al-Fayez rounding off the top five. Shaban and Abu Jamous were Jweihan’s closest challengers in MERC2.

Al-Attiyah safely negotiated the second pass through Bahath, beat Al-Kuwari and saw his lead grow to 53.6 seconds. Jweihan, Krotov and Al-Fayez held their positions inside the top six.

The second pass through the Baptism Site and its famous high-speed jump preceded the short Dead Sea stage. The start was delayed when the course opening car caught fire and then the decision was taken to cancel the stage because of time restraints.

The 3.3km of the Dead Sea special rounded off the day’s proceedings but was delayed after the cancellation of SS6. Al-Attiyah eventually wrapped up a successful opening day with the fastest time of 2min 54.4sec to lead by 1min 05.7sec.

This year's event is supported by Zain Jordan, Guarantee Travel Group, Hala and Bliss FM.

2024 Jordan Rally – positions after SS7:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (POL) Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 52min 39.1sec
2. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Marshall Clarke (GBR) Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 53min 44.8sec
3. Shaker Jweihan (JOR)/Carlos Hanna (LBN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 56min 45.3sec
4. Denis Krotov (KGZ)/Yury Kulikov (CYP) Škoda Fabia Evo Rally2 58min 37.8sec
5. Bader Al-Fayez (JOR)/Joseph Matar (LBN) Škoda Fabia Rally2 59min 15.1sec
6. Shadi Shaban (JOR)/Samer Issa (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1hr 00min 06.0sec
7. Issa Abu Jamous (JOR)/Emad Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1hr 02min 44.5sec
8. Husam Salem (JOR)/Nancy Al-Majali (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1hr 03min 00.5sec
9. Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya (QAT)/Ziad Chehab (LBN) Ford Fiesta Mk II Rally2 1hr 03min 49.9sec
10. Ameer Nassif (JOR)/Mustafa Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1hr 04min 03.0sec
11. Ihab Al-Shurafa (JOR)/Yousef Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1hr 07min 05.6sec
12. Fadi Dahshan (JOR)/Zeid Abu Zeid (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1hr 07min 38.8sec
Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QAT)/Ross Whittock (GBR) Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 RETIRED – SS1
Abdullah Al-Rawahi (OMN)/Ata Al-Hmoud (JOR) Škoda Fabia Rally2 RETIRED – SS3
Hamada Odeh (PLE)/Yazan Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X RETIRED – SS3

Qatar's Al-Attiyah cruises into comfortable Jordan Rally lead (2024)


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