Omani teams on top
The strong representation of Oman teams, eight to be precise, was expected to bring good results at the recently-concluded Qatar International Rally and the Qatar National Rally, which ended in Doha on Saturday.
Despite five of the teams retiring during the rally, the Oman camp celebrated its presence in Qatar when the pair of Jarrah al Tauqi and Issa al Wardi, driving Mitsubishi Evo VIII, won the top honours in the Qatar National Rally.
Adding to the joy was the runner-up finish in the same event of another Omani pair - Zakaria al Amri and his co-driver Abdullah al Amri in their Subaru Impreza.
There could have been a clean sweep of Omani teams in the event had it not been to a late retirement of Hamid al Qasimi and his navigator Yaqdhan al Rashidi on the final day in their Mitsubishi Evo VIII. In fact, Qasimi and Rashidi had even managed to pass the Amri duo before retiring on the last stage.
Nasser Saleh al Attiyah cruised through the final six gravel special stages of the Qatar International Rally to seal a convincing victory by the margin of 3min 29.6sec in their Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 .
For Attiyah, it was a record-breaking 14th victory in his home event and also marked a remarkable 70th MERC victory in the 211-event history of the FIA MERC since 1984. Attiyah’s French co-driver Matthieu Baumel claimed his third win in Qatar and a career 18th in the MERC.
Besides the podium finishes of Tauqi and Zakaria, young Abdullah al Rawahi and his Jordanian co-driver Ata Hamoud, impressed as the pair finished fifth in Group N category of the Qatar International Rally and ended overall tenth among the 12 drivers who managed to finish the rally.
The tenth-place finish also earned Rawahi a point in the FIA Middle East Rally Championships (MERC) standings.
Rawahi recorded good timings before his car suffered problems but still managed to complete the rally.
Tauqi began the last day with a 17min 26.1sec lead and finished with a winning margin of 20min 03.4sec.
Besides the three pairs, the rest of the Omani contingent suffered mechanical problems leading them to retire at different stages.
Speaking after the win, Tauqi said, “I am very happy to win the Qatar National Rally. I have to thank my navigator Issa [al Wardi] for his contribution. It was a difficult rally and needed a lot of concentration during each stage as few drivers left early. We could win the race as we avoided retirement.”
For Zakaria al Amri, it was his debut in Qatar rally and finishing second was like a 'dream'. “We faced technical problems but still managed to finish the rally. It is a dream come true for me. I thank the support of the Oman Automobile Association.”
Among the Omani drivers who retired were Saif al Harthy, Hamid al Qasimi, Muscat-based Briton Shaun McGonigal, Humaid al Waili and Zakariya al Aufi.