Qatari Al Attiyah aims for title as Rally Oman gets under way

Muscat: The cream of special stage rally drivers from the Middle East will start the Oman Rally Sohar International today.

The Oman Automobile Association has made some late changes to the route for the opening round of the FIA ​​Middle East Rally Championship (MERC). Most notably, the pre-event press conference and the start location of the ceremony have been moved from Al Mouj to Nakhal and will start at 2:15 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. respectively.

Event officials have also introduced a 3.90km timed super stage in Nakhal, with the first car in action starting at 4:00 p.m.

Qatari Dakar sensation and multiple regional champion Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah leads the standings in his Volkswagen Polo GTI Autotek and is aiming for a seventh victory in Oman. His usual French co-driver Mathieu Baumel should have tried to claim a third victory in Oman, but could not make the trip for personal reasons.

Her place alongside Al Attiyah was taken by 29-year-old Spanish co-driver Alba Sánchez González, who is a regular sailor on the Spanish national and international rally scene.

Last year she was teamed up with Surhayen Pernia in a Hyundai Motor España-backed i20 R5, with the crew finishing seventh overall on the ERC Islas Canarias Rally and taking outright victory on Rally La Nucía-Mediterráneo and Rally Valles Pasiegos. Oman will be Alba’s first rally in the GCC region, although she sat alongside England’s Catie Munnings to take 40th place overall in the 2018 Cyprus Rally in a Peugeot 208 R2.

“Mathieu couldn’t come to Oman, so Alba stepped in at the 11th hour,” said Ken Skidmore of Autotek Motorsport. “We met her in Spain, where she co-drives with the official Hyundai team. On Al Attiyah’s path are formidable Omani duo Abdullah Al Rawahi and Hamed Al Wahaibi in a pair of Škoda Fabia Evos, Qatari Nasser’s cousin Khalifa Al Atya (Ford Fiesta) and Czech dark horse and MERC debutant Petr Kačirek in a third Skoda Fabia.

“The stages are quite technical,” Al Rawahi said after Tuesday’s practice session. “We made sure our notes were fairly accurate and as detailed as possible. We’ve done these stages before, so we’re fully prepared for the first day of the rally. The second day is quite different from the first day. I think we are happy. I hope this weekend we will be strong and try to do our best.

The bulk of the competitive action will take place across 12 timed special stages tomorrow and Saturday ahead of the ceremonial finish and post-event press conference also moved to Nakhal from 3.25pm ​​on Saturday afternoon.

Rally of Oman Sohar International 2022 – the best entries
1. Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah (QAT)/Alba Sánchez González (ESP) Volkswagen Polo GTI R5
2. Abdullah Al Rawahi (OMN)/Ata Al Hmoud (JOR) Škoda Fabia R5
3. Hamed Al Wahaibi (OMN)/Tony Sircombe (NZL) Škoda Fabia R5
4. Nasser Khalifa Al Atya (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta R5
5. Petr Kačirek (CZE)/Václav Kopaček (CZE) Skoda Fabia R5
6. Zakariya Al Aamri (OMN)/Mohammed Al Aamri (OMN) Subaru Impreza
7. Faisal Al Rashdi (OMN)/Waleed Al Rashdi (OMN) Subaru Impreza
8. Jarah Al Touqi (OMN)/Issa Al Wardi (OMN) Subaru Impreza
10. Ihab Al Shorafa (JOR)/Yousef Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX

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