Wed, 15 Jul, 2015, 12:01
Ten-time Middle East Rally Champion Nasser Al-Attiyah has confirmed that he will be taking part in the 38th Rally of Lebanon - the fourth round of the 2015 Middle East Rally Championship that will be held between September 4 and 6 - after missing last year’s edition of the event.
Al-Attiyah said that there had been no special preparations for the rally as he’s praciticing through his participation in three international championships, including the Middle East Rally Championship, the WRC 2 and the World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, and he will be contesting Baja Aragón at the end of the month, followed by Hungarian Baja in August. Al-Attiyah will make an appearance in Rallye Deutschland before arriving to Lebanon where he’s aiming to secure his first ever victory after failing to do so in previous years, settling for the runner-up spot.
Many wonder: Can Al-Attiyah put an end to the Lebanese’s domination on their home soil, particularly Roger Feghali who won the rally 11 times, with 10 of these victories consecutively? Last year, the young Nicolas Amiouni broke Roger’s domination, with the latter retiring on the second special stage after going off. Amiouni won the event for the first time in his career alongside co-driver Chady Beyrouthy in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.
In this respect, Al-Attiyah said: “I want to win Rally of Lebanon, and I’m participating for this only purpose. I am well aware of the Lebanese drivers’ skills on tarmac, but I have gained experience on these road surfaces and I will not accept anything less than the lead.”
Al-Attiyah’s last Rally of Lebanon participation was back in 2013 when he finished second behind Roger Feghali and ahead of Abdo Feghali. He missed the 2014 edition due to his appearance in Baja Poland, from which he retired on the second day. In 2012, he did not participate because of his country's decision to ban Qatari citizens from travelling to Lebanon.
Everyone’s hoping that Al-Attiyah’s participation will ignite the competition, especially after winning the Super Special Stage in 2013 and following a titanic battle with Roger Feghali in 2011, with the latter taking a last-gasp victory in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X R4, finishing 16 seconds ahead of the Qatari who was driving a Ford Fiesta S2000.
Al-Attiyah kicked off 2015 with a Dakar Rally victory in a MINI ALL4 Racing alongside French co-driver Matthieu Baumel. It was his second Dakar win after he had previously triumphed in 2011 in a Volkswagen Touareg.
His winning streak continued, with him taking three Middle East Rally Championship wins in Qatar, Kuwait and Iran to raise his tally to 57 regional victories, and he now trails 14-time MERC champion Mohammed Bin Sulayem by only 3 wins.
Al-Attiyah, who leads the Middle East Rally Championship with 75 points, is also contesting the World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, and he started the season with a victory at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, but he was later disqualified after officials discovered that his MINI’s suspension was not in compliance with the regulations. His appeal was rejected by the FIA.
After Abu Dhabi, Al-Attiyah secured wins in the Sealine Cross-Country Rally, Rallye des Pharaons and the Italian Baja, to move up to second place in the championship with 150 points, behind Russian Vladimir Vasiliev who has 171 points. It is worth noting that Al-Attiyah missed the first round of the championship that was held in Russia.
In WRC 2, Al-Attiyah triumphed in Mexico and Portugal, finished fifth in Sardegnia and retired from Rally Poland after going off. The Qatari now has 60 points in 4 participations and is second in the championship - 7 points behind leader Jari Ketomaa. His fellow countryman Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari is third with 57 points, helped by a victory in Argentina.
Registration for the 38th Rally of Lebanon closes on August 21, with drivers and co-drivers to be announced at a later date. The rally will consist of 13 special stages that cover 244.01 kilometers of the 794.63-kilometer total distance.