Al-Kuwari and Duffy finish a close second despite setbacks in Quatar!
February 24, 2014 by Andy Walsh
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah is used to driving under pressure, but he and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini were pushed all the way to the finish of a thrilling Qatar International Rally, the opening round of the 2014 Middle East Rally Championships, by fellow countryman Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari on Friday and Saturday last.
Separated by just 5.5 seconds at the start of the second day, Al-Attiyah pressed home a slight advantage once Al-Kuwari and Mayo navigator Killian Duffy suffered a drive shaft breakage. The nine-time MERC champion, driving a Ford Fiesta RRC, duly secured his 11th Qatar win in 12 years. His winning margin was 30.1 seconds from Al-Kuwari and Duffy who finished in second place.
“We’re happy with our performance, especially since this is our first event since WRC in Spain last October,” said Duffy. “Nasser’s record here speaks for itself and we are delighted to have pushed him so hard.”
Al Kuwari and Duffy spun on Thursday night’s opening super special and lost around six seconds, that along with a puncture on SS5 and the drive shaft trouble on SS9 meant it was very nearly a much needed, dream start to 2014 for the pairing.
They had intended to use a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution in this year’s event, but the Qatari took the decision to wheel out a Motortune-run Ford Fiesta RRC thanks to family financial support. 34-year-old Al-Kuwari is coming off a four-month forced hiatus away from rallying thanks to lack of sponsorship.
The Qatari Irish partnership had a big World Rally Championship (WRC) season in 2013. With little experience at the world level, they won three WRC-2 rallies—Mexico, Argentina and Australia—finishing second behind former Formula One driver Robert Kubica in the final season standings.
“I have made a lot of efforts. I have a lot of promises that I will get sponsorship. But I don’t know because the time is running out. Mexico WRC is starting in two weeks’ time. We are in the entry list but I don’t know if I will do it because the time is really short. We have to ship the car from UK to Mexico; it is a long distance. And we might also miss Portugal, where we raced last year. The entry is closing in two weeks. I am losing time, something will have to work out quickly,” Al-Kuwari added.
When asked if he ever thought of giving up the sport due to lack of sponsorship. “I have been racing for 11 years now. I have faced more difficult situations than I am in now. But I never gave up.
Kiltimagh’s John Higgins also made last weekend’s trip to Qatar. Not just there to keep Killian Duffy company on the 6000km plane journey, John had the role of navigating Qatari rookie Juma Al Falasi.
After undergoing extensive preparations over the last two months, Al Falasi got his first taste of competitive action in the desert! Competing in a Citroën DS3 R3, running as part of the Abu Dhabi Racing Team, the pair put in a solid performance over the two day event to finish in 11th place overall, gaining valuable experience along the way.