Al-Attiyah closes in on 11th regional rally title in 13 glorious years Stage set for ceremonial start and super special stage in Amman


DEAD SEA (Jordan): The vibrant Amman residential district of Abdoun will take centre stage for the start of the 2015 Jordan Rally, round six of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), on Thursday afternoon.

The podium area will play host to a Q & A session with the leading drivers from 14.30hrs and the ceremonial start at 15.30hrs, before some of the region’s leading drivers head into a nearby timed super special stage at 16.30hrs.


Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah is the most successful Arab driver in history and the Qatari needs just one point from this three-day rally to secure an 11th regional title in 13 years. He starts as the favourite to win the event for a ninth time as well and that success would also be his 59th in the MERC and put him within one victory of Mohammed Bin Sulayem’s 60 successes.

“I always enjoys competing in this rally,” said Al-Attiyah. “The stages are challenging and of a high standard. I have won here eight times before, but it is never easy and you always have to concentrate hard on these roads. Another title is within my grasp and that is the priority, but I also want to win the rally, of course.”

A challenging route, comprising the timed super special and 20 further gravel special stages in the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley areas, will ensure that the Qatari and his French co-driver Matthieu Baumel will need to concentrate at all times. The pair has just clinched the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies and is on course for WRC2 success in the WRC.


Baumel, for his part, has won seven MERC events and is tied with Jordan’s very own Khalid Zakaria as the fifth most successful navigator in regional history, albeit some way behind Ronan Morgan (40 wins), Giovanni Bernacchini (25), Chris Patterson (24) and John Spiller (19).

Leading Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi will be hoping to push the Qatari to the limit. Both rivals drive Ford Fiesta RRCs, but Al-Rajhi has missed a couple of rounds of the series this season, is not in series contention and only has a fifth outright MERC win on his mind. Ulster co-driver Michael Orr will also be chasing a fifth personal success at this level.

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari is a former winner of his home Qatar Rally and scored maximum championship points on a Cyprus round of the series. He too will be aiming for victory in a third Ford Fiesta with English co-driver Marshall Clarke. A podium finish would catapult the Qatari into second position in the championship at the expense of Abu Dhabi’s Khalid Al-Qassimi.

“As always, the stages are nice and they will be challenging,” said the Qatari. “There is no damage to them after the recent rain and we are looking forward to what is sure to be a good battle between us, Nasser and Yazeed.”

Qatar’s Khaled Al-Suwaidi drives a fourth Ford at the top of the entry list and the 2012 Kuwait Rally winner could also move ahead of Al-Qassimi with outright victory in Jordan.

Al-Attiyah, Al-Rajhi, Al-Kuwari and Al-Qassimi are all on the entry list for next week’s penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship in Spain.

Leading Jordanian driver Husam Salem tops the Group N contingent in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX and will be aiming for a second successive home success in the showroom class. Rivals include Qatar’s Rashid Al-Naimi and Jordanians, Khaled Juma, Ihab Al-Shorafa and Lina Hadidi. Asem Aref features at the foot of the entry list in a Fiat Stilo.

“The goal now is a little higher than last year when we were sixth and won Group N,“ said Husam Salem. “Here we have a new car. We replaced the Evo VIII with an Evo IX and I will be looking to try and finish on the podium and inside the top three. It’s disappointing that some of the other drivers have not made it here. We wanted a big fight in Group N. But now I must focus and make sure that Nancy (Al-Majali) and I achieve our goal.”

The meat of the action takes place over 20 desert stages in the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley areas on Friday and Saturday, with the ceremonial finish taking place at the Dead Sea from 17.30hrs on Saturday.

Timetable of events – Thursday, October 15:

14.00 Start of entertainment programme

14:30 Pre-Rally Q&A session, start area, Abdoun Circle

15:00 Live Entertainment and DJ

15:30 First Car on Ramp

16:30 Jordan Rally Super Special Stage, Abdoun Corridor

20:00 DJ and entertainment at the Dead Sea Rally Service Park

2015 Middle East Rally Championship – drivers’ positions after round 5:

  1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)             100 pts
  2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)                         51 pts
  3. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)                           48 pts
  4. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QAT)                                     32 pts
  5. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QAT)                          26 pts
  6. Salah bin Eidan (KWT)                            26 pts
  7. Roger Feghali (LBN)                                      25 pts
  8. Nicolas Amiouni (LBN)                         18 pts
  9. Rashid Al-Naimi (QAT)                                     16 pts
  10. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)                              15 pts, etc