(MENAFN - Jordan Times) The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr clinched a comfortable victory in the 2010 Kuwait International Rally, round two of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), on Saturday, according to a statement from organisers.
At the wheel of his new Autotek supported Ford Fiesta S2000, Qassimi gradually extended his 7.7s overnight lead over the second day's seven desert special stages to record his seventh regional championship rally victory by a margin of 49 seconds. It was his first win in Kuwait.
The feat moved the emirati into a joint lead with Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and Sheikh Hamed Ben Eid Al Thani in the 2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship and enabled Qassimi to tie Roger Feghali's seven regional rally wins, making him the joint fourth most successful driver in the history of the MERC.
This win came at an important time and it has given me a great chance to challenge for the Middle East title," Ford's delighted WRC factory driver was quoted as saying in the statement. "It is only my second event in the Ford Fiesta and I showed in Qatar that the pace is there. We were able to control the event today and take no risks.
It is nice to be back on the top step of the podium with a win here in Kuwait. It has thrown the championship wide open. I must give a special thanks to the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and my team for giving me this chance.
Rashid Al Ketbi and Khaled Al Kendi were unable to match Qassimi and Orr in their Skoda Fabia S2000, but the UAE crew had the consolation of second position and eight crucial championship points, a blocked air filter not helping their cause in the choking dusty conditions.
Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al Rajhi and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel began the day in fifth position with their Kronos Peugeot 207 S2000. Rajhi was in flying form and impressive stage times saw him overall Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi and Khalid Al Suwaidi to move into third position.
But the Saudi suffered engine problems on the penultimate stage and Suwaidi and British co-driver Nick Beech finished fourth overall in their converted Autotek recce car. The UAE's Sheikh Abdullah and British co-driver Steve Lancaster were fourth.
Qatar's Sheikh Hamed, partnered by UAE co-driver Arif Yousuf, continued his resurgent form to claim a fine fifth position. The 1993 regional champion also earned joint first position in the Drivers' Championship after two of eight rounds.
Essam Al Nejadi and Anwar Al Sharrah began the day as the leading Kuwaiti crew and managed to hold on to claim sixth overall. Kuwaiti drivers Meshari Al Thafiri and Abdullah Al Hajri were seventh and ninth. There were 16 registered finishers.
Surviving crews were welcomed over the finishing podium at the Kuwait Towers by Jasim Yaqoub, vice president of public youth and sport in Kuwait, the KMSC's Sheikh Ahmad Al Dawood Al Sabah and Brigadier Mahmoud Al Doseri, head of Kuwait's traffic department.