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KHALID PRODUCES DRAMATIC DUBAI RALLY VICTORY TO TAKE MIDDLE EAST TITLE IN SENSATIONAL STYLE

29 November, 2014

Emirati driver wins by 0.3 seconds to break Al Attiyah’s hold on rally and regional championship 

Dubai, UAE, 29 November, 2014: The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi produced a stunning fightback to win the Dubai International Rally in sensational fashion today and snatch the FIA Middle East Championship drivers’ title away from Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah.

In the most spectacular ever finish to the regional championship, Al Qassimi emerged victorious by a margin of just 0.3 seconds after a thrilling start-to-finish battle with Al Attiyah to deny his great rival an eighth successive win in Dubai and a tenth Middle East crown.

 UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi powers his Citroen DS3 to victory in Dubai international Rally.

Incredibly, everything came down to the final special stage of the season, a 25.92km section which started with the Emirati driver leading by 0.4 seconds after he had produced a brilliant surge to win the previous stage by 6.1 seconds.

Never before had the destiny of the Dubai Rally title, or the championship, been so delicately balanced, and Al Qassimi, partnered by Chris Patterson in his Abu Dhabi Racing Citroen DS3, held his nerve to record his third win in Dubai and land his second Middle East triumph.

“We pushed to the limit but it was very difficult”, said an emotional Al Qassimi, who had been determined to produce a home victory ahead of UAE National Day.

‘On the last stage I had a flat tyre but I got through it. If we’re going to be in the record books now it’s not just my name that’s going there, it’s also the name of Citroen because of what we’ve done together.”

Victory had looked to be in the grasp of Al Attiyah, for whom the rally signalled the end of a hugely successful six-year partnership with Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini.

“We are quite happy we did a really good job here,” he said at the finish. “We are not slow but were really surprised about Khalid’s times in the afternoon. I knew it would not be easy and that we really needed to concentrate all the time.”

 Nasser Al Attiyah in action on the final day of Dubai International Rally.

Finishing third in the rally, and in the championship, was Qatar’s Al Kuwari, with fellow-countryman Khalid Al Suwaidi, the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi and another Qatari, Abdulla Al Kuwari, completing the top six in Dubai.

From the start on Friday, however, as Al Qassimi won the first two stages, only for Al Attiyah to take the last three, it was clear that this was becoming a classic two-car tussle for supremacy which put all other events in the shade.

Leading by 6.8 seconds overnight, Al Attiyah increased his advantage to 12.2 secs over the first of the day’s six stages to begin an intriguing tussle which meant the outcome was in doubt up to the last kilometre.

Immediately, Al Qassimi reduced the deficit to 10.3 seconds, before it became 11.8 secs and then just 5.7 seconds as the Citroen and the Ford were pushed to the limit, especially over a frantic final stage which Al Attiyah took by 0.1 seconds to fall agonisingly short.

Abdullah Al Qassimi in action on the second leg of Dubai International Rally.

The result will undoubtedly find its way into the record books of FIA international rallying for producing the narrowest margin to decide a championship title.

Dubai International Rally provisional results:

1. Khalid Al Qassimi / Chris Patterson (UAE / GBR) / Citroen DS3 / RC2              1:59:27.5

2. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Giovanni Bernacchini (QAT / IT) / Ford Fiesta RRC            1:59:27.8

3. Abdulaziz Al Kuwari / Killian Duffy (QAT / IRL) Ford Fiesta RRC / RC2        2:03:51.5

4. Khalid Al Suwaidi / John Higgins (QTR / IRL) / Ford Fiesta RRC / RC2            2:05:46.9

5. Abdullah Al Qassimi / Gaby Khoury (UAE / LEB) / Ford Fiesta RRC / GP2      2:06:41.2

6. Abdulla Al Kuwari / Enda Sherry (Qatar/ IRE) Ford Fiesta RRC / RC2              2:11:57.9

7.Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah / Adhil H. Abdulla (QAT / QAT) / Mitsubishi EVO    2:16:14.9

8. Mohamed Al Sahlawi / Craig Parry (UAE / GBR) / Citroen DS3 R3 / RC3         2:20:24.8

9. Mohammed Al Mutawaa / Stephen McAuley (UAE / GBR) / Citroen DS3 R3   2:21:14.0

10. Rashid Al Ketbi / Karina Hepperle (ARE / GER) / Ford Fiesta R5 / RC2          2:23:37.9

FIA Middle East Rally Championship Final standings

1          Khalid Al Qassimi (UAE)                  94pts

2.         Nasser Al Attiyah (QAT)                   93

3          Abdulaziz Al Kuwari (QAT)              81

4          Abdulla Al Kuwari (QAT)                 47

5          Abdullah Al Qassimi (UAE)              37

Group N standings

1          Meshari Al Thefiri (KWT)                  89pts

2          Khalifa Al Attiyah (QAT)                  83

3          Edith Weiss (QAT)                             64

4          Nada Zaidan (QAT)                           46

5          Nicolas Amiouni (LEB)                      25

=          Husam Salem (JOR)                           25

Ends