25 Jan 10
Former Production Car World Rally Champion Nasser Al-Attiyah took victory at the Qtel Qatar International Rally at the weekend, recording the first win on gravel for the Fiesta S2000 he will drive in this year's S-WRC competition.
The result came less than 24 hours after Ford's WRC team-leader Mikko Hirvonen won the wintry asphalt Monte Carlo Rally in an identical car.
Al-Attiyah, from Qatar, has campaigned a Subaru Impreza in the Production car World Rally Championship since 2004 and was crowned champion in 2006. This year marks a fresh start for him and his Barwa Rally Team, with an attempt at the FIA's latest WRC series in a new Fiesta S2000.
On Saturday, in preparation for their S-WRC debut in Mexico, Al-Attiyah and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini clinched an eighth successive victory in the desert event to take an early lead in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship - a series he has won for the last six years.
Al-Attiyah was pushed hard in Qatar by Ford factory team drivers UAE's Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr, also in a Fiesta S2000. Both drivers led the rally at different times, and each suffered their fair share of punctures, but two in the penultimate stage proved too much for Al Qassimi, who retired from second place.
“It has been three weeks of highs and lows with the second place on the Dakar and now this fantastic victory in Qatar,” said Al-Attiyah. “I knew it would not be easy today. It was impossible to push hard. It was a matter of making no mistakes and hoping you did not lose too much time with tyre problems. I have a busy programme this year and will not be able to take part in all the Middle East rallies, so it was important that I got the 10 points here.”