The Qatari, who drives a Ford Fiesta RRC, began Sunday’s competition with a comfortable 1min 13.8sec lead over Yuriy Protasov, and lost just 0.4sec of this margin by the end, to finish tenth overall.
It was the third WRC 2 victory of the season for Al-Kuwari, who also took maximum points on the other long-haul rounds in Mexico and Argentina. He now leads Robert Kubica by 17 points in the title standings.
“Three wins this year, leading again and I equal my best result which was 10th in Greece, so it’s feeling really good,” said Al Kuwari. “I’m pleased to have made top-10 in an RRC car, my pace was really good, even against the top drivers, and every time the gap is getting closer. The team did a great job, as did my co-driver Killian, it’s been a very nice weekend.”
Protasov picked up 18 points for second, but was left rueing a spin on Saturday which damaged the right-hand side of his Fiesta R5 and dropped him out of the lead. “It’s a good result, but maybe it could have been better,” shrugged the Ukrainian.
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi was third, almost seven minutes behind Protasov, and relieved to have salvaged a decent result after retiring his Fiesta RRC on Friday with broken steering.
Subaru Impreza driver Arman Smailov was a distant fourth, 20m35s further back, with New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon rounding off the top five.
Paddon began the event as favourite, but retired on the opening day when his Skoda Fabia S2000 suffered an electrical problem. He re-joined on Saturday determined to prove his pace, and did this by going fastest on all but one of the remaining stages.
“Hopefully the right people were looking because it’s got to the point where we need a door to open to help us carry on, but I think we’ve got the most out of the weekend after a pretty poor start,” reflected Paddon.
The Venezuelan trio Alejandro Lombardo, Carlos Fessman and Alexander Galvez completed the WRC 2 finishers.