Last weekend saw Nasser Al-Attiyah secure his ninth FIA Middle East Rally Championship with a dominant victory at the 2013 Cyprus Rally. Winning all but one of the 17 stages, the Qatari put in a flawless performance behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RRC.
As the fifth and penultimate round of the series, the action kick-started on Friday evening with Al-Attiyah and co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini winning the opening speed test. Following that first stage win, the pairing did not look back – maintaining the lead and winning the championship in style with almost a three minute advantage over their nearest rival. The victory marked the Olympian’s fourth this season and 49th to date.
Seashore Qatar Rally Team’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and Killian Duffy claimed third place to seal a double podium for M-Sport’s Fiesta RRC. Having been running in a strong second place for much of the event, Al-Kuwari came tantalisingly close to securing a one-two for the Cumbrian outfit – finishing just 4.7 seconds adrift of the runner-up spoils.
As a true mixed-surface event with a combination of gravel, asphalt and dual-surface stages, the rally will also hold both Al-Attiyah and Al-Kuwari in good stead ahead of the FIA World Rally Championship’s only mixed-surface round of the season at Rally de España – an event in which both Qataris will take to the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Nasser Al-Attiyah said:
“We have all worked very hard to secure the win here [in Cyprus] so I am very happy to have taken my ninth [MERC] title with such a victory. The championship is very important to me – it’s good for the team, for Qatar, for our sponsors and for everyone who has supported us over the years. I hope we can continue like this.
“Next we head to Dubai where it will be important for us to battle for first place again. I am sure that a lot of people will want to win there, but we will do all that we can to secure another victory.”
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“A big congratulations to Nasser [Al-Attiyah] and Giovanni [Bernacchini] on securing such a dominant victory in Cyprus last weekend. To win any championship nine times is an incredible feat.
“Congratulations must also be paid to Abdulaziz [Al-Kuwari] and Killian [Duffy] for another impressive performance. They have shown huge progress this year and I am looking forward to seeing how they develop behind the wheel of the Fiesta RS WRC in Spain.
“This result just goes to show how competitive the [Ford] Fiesta RRC is. The fact that the Fiesta RRC has won every Middle Eastern event so far this season, just goes to prove that we have a great car.