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Saudi’s Al-Rajhi, Orr lead Kuwait Int’l Rally opener Al-Attiyah, Al-Qassimi tied for 2nd overall

KUWAIT CITY, March 20: Round two of the Kuwait International Rally kicked off Thursday following a preevent press conference and ceremonial start at the SIRBB Karting Circuit in Shuwaikh which was attended by officials of Kuwait’s topmost motorsport organizations, Kuwait Quarter Mile Automobile & Motorcycle Club and Kuwait International Rally Committee, Sheikhs Athbi Naif Al Sabah and Ali Fawaz Al Sabah. Officials of the Historic, Vintage & Classic Cars Museum, operators of the SIRBB Circuit, were also on hand to ensure the opening round of the rally got off to a smooth start at the facility.

Speaking to the Arab Times on the sidelines of the day’s event, Sheikh Athbi Naif, pointing to the eager contestants waiting for the green light to jump into the SIRBB Circuit tracks for the opening round of the rally, stated that “ I’ve not seen this level of energy surrounding this event in a long while, and that shows what really awaits the teeming motorsports community here and beyond”. It’s going to be very tough over there in Julai’a and I, along with other members of the organizing team, wish the participants the best of luck on the circuit as they dive deep into the battle”, the motorsports honcho added.

The entry list includes competitors from 10 countries: Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Italy, Great Britain, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, France and Greece. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr edged into a slender lead at the end of the opening 1.8km Sirbb special stage of the Kuwait International Rally, held at the impressive new karting venue on the outskirts of Kuwait City on Thursday evening.

The Ford Fiestas RRC crew set a time of 1min 40.5sec and that was enough to beat both Khalid Al-Qassimi and Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah by eight tenths of a second to steal the bragging rights before the event proper gets underway in the southern Kuwaiti desert on Friday morning. Salah bin Eidan was classified as the leading Kuwaiti driver in seventh position. Mohamed Al-Mutawee was the quickest of the five Abu Dhabi Racing Juniors in his Citroën DS3 R3. Twenty-two cars were flagged away from the podium adjacent to the circuit by Sheikh Ahmed Al-Mansoor Al- Ahmad Al-Sabah, director general of the public authority for youth and sports, in the presence of Sheikh Ali Al-Fawaz Al- Sabah, chairman of the board of directors of the Kuwait Quarter Mile Auto & Motorcycle Club (KMRC), and Sheikh Athbi Nayef Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, chairman of the organising committee of the Kuwait International Rally. Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, FIA vice president for sport MENA and president of the Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) was also in attendance and flagged away several of the cars before heading back to Qatar for this weekend’s MotoGP.

There was also a special presentation to veteran drivers Michel Saleh, Ahmed Al-Thafiri and Ali Al-Biramei, the podium finishers in the first Kuwait round of the MERC held in 1984. But Saleh’s enjoyable afternoon was soon to be ruined when he ground to a halt on the Sirbb stage after blowing the turbo and the resultant oil leakage caused a substantial delay for the remaining nine cars while errant oil was removed from the track surface. Saudi Arabia’s Saeed Al-Mouri suffered engine crankshaft issues on the eve of the start and was not able to make the starting ceremony with his Skoda Fabia S2000. Tomorrow (Thursday), there will be three special stages repeated twice. The first 13.46km section has been renamed ‘Misfer’in memory of the 2010 FIAMiddle East rally champion Misfer Al-Marri, who passed away after an illness last month.

That opening special starts at 09.56hrs and precedes runs through the longest stage of the rally, named Kheiran (30.23km), at 10.17hrs and Al-Zour (22.53km) at 10.55hrs. Teams then head to a regroup and service stop at the Seashell Julai’a Hotel and Resort, south of Kuwait City, before the three timed stages are repeated on Friday afternoon at 13.03hrs, 13.24rs and 14.02hrs.

The event finishes at the Safir Hotel and Residences in Fintas at 4.30pm on Saturday after a further six special stages culminating an award presentation ceremony at the SIRBB Karting Circuit in Shuwaikh. 2014 Kuwait International Rally - positions after SS1 (20.40hrs):

1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Michael Orr (GBR) Ford Fiesta RRC - 1min 40.5sec;

2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta RRC - 1min 41.3sec;

2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Chris Patterson (GBR) Citroën DS3 RRC - 1min 41.3sec;

4. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Ford Fiesta RRC - 1min 42.5sec;

5. Khalifa Al- Attiyah (QAT)/Adel Hussein (QAT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X - 1min 47.9sec;

6. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Catherine Derousseaux (FRA) Ford Fiesta RRC - 1min 48.3sec;

7. Salah Bin Eidan (KWT)//Nasser Al- Kuwari (QAT) Ford Fiesta R5 - 1min 48.7sec;

8. Abdullah Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Nicola Arena (ITA) Ford Fiesta R5 - 1min 48.8sec;

9. Mohamed Al- Mutawaa (ARE)/Stephen McAuley (GBR) Citroën DS3 R3 - 1min 50.2sec;

10. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Mubarak Al-Thefiri (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X - 1min 52.2sec.

11. Saeed Bintowq (ARE)/Allan Harryman (GBR) Citroën DS3 R3 - 1min 54.6sec;

12. Elie Chachati (KWT)/Naji Sfeir (LBN) Subaru Impreza - 1min 55.5sec;

13. Mohamed Al-Sahlawi (ARE)/Craig Parry (GBR) Citroën DS3 R3 - 1min 56.2sec;

13. Dawood Al-Gharabally (KWT)/Abdulla Al-Ghanim (KWT) Subaru Impreza - 1min 56.2sec;

15. Ali Saleh (KWT)/Fares Al-Thafiri (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII - 1min 56.5sec;

16. Mansoor Belhelai (ARE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (ARE) Citroën DS3 R3 - 1min 57.5sec;

17. Juma Al- Falaisi (ARE)/John Higgins (IRL) Citroën DS3 R3 - 1min 58.1sec;

18. Edith Weiss (DEU)/Vicky Psarali (GRC) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX - 2min 01.0sec;

19. Essam Al-Nejadi (KWT)/Anwar Al-Shraah (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX - 2min 05.9sec;

20. Abdullah Al-Ansari (KWT)/Ahmad Al-Ansari (KWT) - Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII - 2min 09.2sec;

21. Nada Zeidan (QAT)/Kamal Khoder (QAT) - Subaru Impreza 2min 10.5sec.

By: Iddris Seidu (Arab Times Staff) & Neil Perkins

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