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Al Attiyah breaks Middle East titles record after Kuwait win

Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah celebrates the victory with co-driver Matthieu Baumel

Doha, November 5: With his stunning victory in last week's Kuwait Rally, ace Qatari driver Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah has become the most successful driver in FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) as he annexed his 14th crown in the regional series.

Al Attiyah's seventh win in Kuwait and his 69th career MERC win secured the record-breaking 14th regional title by the margin of 12min 19.2sec.

The Ford Fiesta driver now has the record for the number of MERC titles to himself after FIA official Jerome Roussel examined the archives recently and confirmed that the 1989 regional series had been cancelled because only three rallies had taken place and Dubai driver Mohammed Bin Sulayem had actually won 13th official championship titles.

"To break the long-standing record is very satisfying. There have been many memories along the way and many battles with some great drivers. Now we can look to the future and pushing ahead with more records of our own," said an elated Al Attiyah, who can now look to end the MERC season in style at home with the Qatar Rally scheduled to be held from November 15 to 17.

Astonishing success

Astonishing success

Al Attiyah's French co-driver Matthieu Baumel secured his third regional title and his 17th MERC event win to move ahead of John Spiller and into third in the regional Hall of Fame behind Ronan Morgan, Chris Patterson and Giovanni Bernacchini.

The success also marked an astonishing 15th regional title in 16 seasons for Ken Skidmore's Autotek Motorsport operation, which also guided the late Misfer Al Marri to the title in 2010.

Rally return

Rally return

The rally also saw the return of former MERC champion Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah to competitive action.

Khalifa Al Attiyah had not taken part in an MERC event since the 2007 Dubai International Rally, but the former Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation President and FIA Vice-President acclimatised to the tricky conditions with aplomb. Despite missing out on points for finishing the opening leg because of a differential issue, he and Italian navigator Nicola Arena bounced back to round off the podium positions.

No drama

No drama

Al Attiyah began the final day with a lead of 8min 03.9sec and extended that to 8min 47.4sec with the fastest time of 7min 39.5sec on the opener.

There were no major dramas on the penultimate stage and Al Attiyah held on to seal the title and his seventh win in Kuwait.

For the records

For the records

For the records, there have now been 209 MERC rallies since the series' inception in 1984.

Bin Sulayem claimed 60 wins from 103 events between 1984 and the end of 2002 and Al Attiyah has now won 69 (MERC) rallies from 106 between 2003 and 2018.

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    Story first published: Monday, November 5, 2018, 12:53 [IST]
    Other articles published on Nov 5, 2018
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