(MENAFN - The Peninsula) Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and Italian navigator Giovanni Bernacchini won nine of the day's 10 timed special stages in the Jordan Rally, round three of the 2014 FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), and moved into an overall lead of 1min 10.5sec, yesterday in Amman.
Abu Dhabi Racing's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Chris Patterson managed to beat the defending regional champion's Ford Fiesta RRC on the fourth timed test and were a comfortable second in the sole factory Citro«n DS3 RRC.
"No problems and a good clean run," Al Attiyah said yesterday. "It was slippery in places and I needed to take care, but I was always in control of the pace."
A fierce battle waged for third place between Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, Salah bin Eidan and local hero Marouf Abu Samra. The Jordanian held the advantage until he punctured on stage six and slipped to fifth.
From then on, Sharjah-based Al-Qassimi moved clear to reach the overnight halt in third and Abu Samra became embroiled in a tussle with Kuwaiti Bin Eidan for fourth. The pair traded times and positions throughout the afternoon and Abu Samra pulled clear over the closing kilometres to claim fourth place.
The local crew of Husam Salem and Nancy Al-Majali finished the day comfortably clear of their rivals in the Group N category and held a fine sixth overall. Jordan's Ala'a Rasheed held seventh position and Qatar's Abdullah Al-Kuwari overcame an early indiscretion to secure eighth.
Abu Dhabi Racing's Mohamed Al-Mutawee, partnered by Ulster co-driver Stephen McAuley, was the class of the Junior and 2WD field in the first of four surviving Citro«n DS3 R3s.
QMMF Rally Team mechanics were able to replace the broken front differential that had plagued Khalifa Al Attiyah in the Abdali super special stage and the Qatari was able to continue with a 10-minute time penalty.
His brother Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah, therefore, led 20 rivals into the 9.58km of the opening Mount Nebo stage yesterday morning and extended his advantage over Khalid Al-Qassimi by 3.4 seconds with the quickest time. Jordanians Salamah Al-Qammaz and Mohammed Rasheed failed to make the start.
The Ma'in 1 stage followed and Al Attiyah traversed the 16.80km in 12min 19.5sec to extend his lead to 12 seconds. Abu Samra tightened his grip on third to 8.2 seconds.
Al-Mutawee held a comfortable 2WD and Junior lead, but Abu Dhabi rival Mohamed Al-Sahlawi dropped over one and a half minutes in SS2 and returned to the Dead Sea without starting SS3 after spinning and damaging the rear right suspension of his DS3 R3.
Today, crews will tackle the remaining 10 gravel special stages in the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea areas. The day will be split into two loops of five stages, split by a midday service at the Dead Sea, although there will be a remote refuelling zone after two timed tests.