MIKKELSEN LEADS AFTER OPENING STAGE OF QATAR INTERNATIONAL RALLY
http://qmmf.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Nasser-Saleh-Al-Attiyah-and-QMMF-President-Abdulrahman-Al-Mannai..jpghttp://2023 Qatar International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 2
For immediate release
Thursday, February 16th, 2023
MIKKELSEN LEADS AFTER OPENING STAGE OF QATAR INTERNATIONAL RALLY
• Lindholm and Østberg hold second and third overall; Naser is fourth
• Six gravel stages in the north of Qatar on the timetable for Friday
LUSAIL (Qatar): The Norwegian pairing of Andreas Mikkelsen and Torstein Eriksen stopped the clocks in 3min 25.1sec to hold a 3.1-second lead after the opening 3.27km special stage of the Qatar International Rally at a blustery LCSC Karting Academy late on Thursday evening.
Twenty-two cars and competitors from 14 nations had been flagged away by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation’s President Abdulrahman Al-Mannai and Executive Director Amro Al-Hamed in front of hundreds of spectators at a windswept Al-Maha Island earlier in the evening, shortly after nine of the leading drivers had attended the official FIA pre-event press conference on the start podium.
Behind the Norwegian duo, second place on the asphalt opening stage went to Finland’s Emil Lindholm, while Mads Østberg, local favourite Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari rounded off the top five.
The Jordanian duo of Shaker Jweihan and Nancy Al-Majali and the Lebanese pairing of Jad Al-Aawar and Vicken Kanledjian shared the spoils with the equal fastest time in the MERC2 category.
Sligo-based Niall Burns was a late replacement for Portugal’s Hugo Magalhães sitting alongside local driver Khalid Al-Suwaidi. The 33-year-old Irishman lives at Kilmacrennan in County Donegal and finished fourth overall with James Greer at the recent Galway International Rally. The new pairing finished the opening stage in sixth place after current MERC leader Abdullah Al-Rawahi incurred a 15-second penalty and slipped back.
In the build-up to the start of the rally, Sports Racing Technologies (SRT) registered for the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC). The Latvian team is running Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evos for the Scandinavian trio of Mads Østberg, Andreas Mikkelsen and Emil Lindholm in Qatar.
Speaking at the press conference, Mikkelsen said: “I am actually quite excited about this. It’s a new challenge for me. I was testing in Portugal on Monday and then arrived here at 3am the following morning and, since then, it’s been a nice experience and a chance to try something totally different. I actually came to Qatar once before, for the FIA prize giving, but this is my first taste of the desert here. I did do the Dakar so I guess this is a special stage version of that! The terrain is flat and it is difficult to find the lines and the braking points. My biggest fear is getting lost. Nasser (Al-Attiyah) said (jokingly) it’s flat out everywhere and don’t make the notes too complicated. We will see.”
Østberg added: I remember asking Nasser last year how he was that fast and he just said it was flat out! I know that is not the case. There are places where you need to be very careful. I take responsibility for the water leak last year. That was my fault! But I can take confidence from last year into the weekend.”
Sadoon Al-Kuwari competed in Qatar in his early career against the likes of the late Lars-Erik Torph and the 1986 winner Björn Waldegård, when Toyota used to come to Qatar for pre-event testing before the Safari Rally. The veteran began his 40th year of competing with the seventh fastest time in the opening stage.
Oman’s Zakariya Al-Aamri suffered serious engine issues, failed to finish and his Subaru shed oil on to the stage.
Logistical issues meant that Italy’s Stefano Marrini failed to make the start in his T4 Can-Am Maverick. The lack of up-to-date FIA homologation for his Mitsubishi meant that Jordan’s Sami Fleifel was not permitted to score points in the Qatar Rally and ran as a national entrant.
Competitors tackle two loops of three gravel special stages through the northern deserts on Friday. A run through the 16.15km of Al-Khor gets proceedings underway from 09.55hrs and precedes the first pass through a slightly revised Ras Laffan (15.44km) speed test at 10.35hrs and the 16.70km of Al-Thakira (11.00hrs).
The three specials will be repeated in the afternoon at 13.10hrs, 13.50hrs and 14.15hrs, respectively, after a return to Lusail for a midday regroup and 30-minute service.
2023 Qatar International Rally – positions after SS1 (unofficial):
1. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Torstein Eriksen (NOR) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo 3min 25.1sec
2. Emil Lindholm (FIN)/Reeta Hämäläinen (FIN) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo 3min 28.2sec
3. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Patrik Barth (SWE) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo 3min 29.3sec
4. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (AND) Volkswagen Polo GTI 3min 31.2sec
5. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Lorcan Moore (IRL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo 3min 34.8sec
6. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QAT)/Niall Burns (IRL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo 3min 35.3sec
7. Sadoon Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Stéphane Prévot (BEL) Volkswagen Polo GTI 3min 45.7sec
8. Jad Al-Aawar (LEB)/Vicken Kanledjian (LEB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 3min 46.9sec
8. Shaker Jweihan (JOR)/Nancy Al-Majali (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 3min 46.9sec
10. Abdullah Al-Rawahi (OMN)/Ata Al-Hmoud (JOR) Škoda Fabia Evo 3min 50.2sec
11. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 3min 51.8sec
12. Sheikh Bader Al-Fayez (JOR)/Emad Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lanver Evo X 3min 56.7sec
13. Shadi Shaban (JOR)/Samer Issa (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 3min 58.4sec
14. Ihab Al-Shorafa (JOR)/Yousef Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 4min 01.8sec
15. Ahmad Khaled (LEB)/Samer Sfeir (LEB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 4min 02.3sec
16. Yousef Al-Dhafeeri (KWT)/Carlos Hanna (LEB) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 4min 04.6sec
17. Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta R5 4min 06.3sec
18. Rashid Al-Muhannadi (QAT)/Fares Allouh (QAT) Subaru Impreza STI 4min 08.6sec
19. Abdullah Al-Rabban (QAT)/Hassan Ali Obaid (ARE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 4min 12.1sec
20. Khalid Al-Muhannadi (QAT)/Waleed Al-Fuaim (SAU) Polaris Pro XP (T4) 4min 44.1sec
Zakariya Al-Aamri (OMN)/Mohammed Al-Mazroui (OMN) Subaru Impreza WRX STI DNF
1. Sami Fleifel (JOR)/Ahmed Al-Khatab (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII 4min 10.9sec
Follow the results live:
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