The Qatar driver, at the wheel of a Barwa World Rally Team Ford Fiesta S2000, led from the opening stage in North America and controlled proceedings through Sunday’s three stages to bag his maiden win in the class.
His only problem today was when the door seal on his Ford came loose on the opening stage and got wrapped around his left arm. Beyond that, it was a delighted Al-Attiyah who reached the finish to celebrate with his British-based Autotek team and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini.
“Fantastic!” said Al-Attiyah at the finish of the final stage. “This has been a very hard weekend, but I am so happy to win this race. This is a good start to the championship for me. I’m so happy! I hope we keep on winning like this.”
Second-placed driver Martin Prokop started the day sandwiched between Al-Attiyah and Juho Hanninen in third. Although he was in touching distance of the leading Ford, Prokop admitted his primary concern was pursuing Hanninen.
That anguish was fully vindicated when Hanninen stormed the day’s opener taking 7.7 seconds out of the Czech Ford driver.
Prokop admitted his run through Guanajuatito had been something of a mixed bag. “In some places I was too slow and in others I was too fast,” said Prokop at the end of the stage. “I’m not happy. Forget Nasser, this is about staying ahead of Hanninen.”
Hanninen’s determined run came to nothing, however, when he rolled in the next stage, leaving the way clear for Prokop to take second.
At the finish Prokop was almost as pleased as the winner, saying: “It’s very important to beat the Skoda. Friday was not so good for me, we lost a lot with the bad set-up, but Saturday and Sunday have been perfect.”
Hanninen was a subdued third in his battered Fabia: “The roll was quite soft and we only lost 15 seconds with this,” he said. “But then we had a puncture at the left rear, and we lost quite a bit with this. It has been a difficult rally. We have some good points, but third places will not be enough. We need to win.”
Ott Tanak and Karl Kruda both restarted for the final day. Tanak’s MM Motorsport mechanics had been hard at work through Saturday, preparing the former Pirelli Star Driver’s Ford ahead of the final day. Tanak had crashed off the road on yesterday’s opener, dropping the car down a steep ravine.
“The team has done a very good job,” said Tanak. “The mechanics had to work really hard. I went off on the outside of a tight left-hand corner. I couldn’t get the car back, it dropped off the road and that was it.”
Tanak and Kruuda (Skoda) picked up points on the final day, finishing fourth and fifth respectively.
"This is a good start to the championship for me. I’m so happy!"