Qatar International Rally kicks off, Al-Attiyah and Bernacchini in the lead after day one

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Racers from the Middle East and the globe embrace the duel for the title lead at Federal International Automobile (FIA) Middle East Rally Championship in Doha during a two-day sports event Jan. 25-26.

Qatari rally driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini steered a nail-biting chase at the Qatar International Rally during the opening session, by 4.8 seconds, FIA Middle East Rally Championship official news website reported on Friday.

With only mere seconds distance keeping the drivers apart, the Qatari racer in Ford Fiesta RRC, tackled Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (Citroën DS3) and Scott Martin, a British navigator over the rock-strewn desert race course.

Bidding for his 10th title at the Qatar Rally, the defending regional champion, finished the first day of race sessions with three stage victories and an overnight top lead.

“Today was not a day to push too much,” said Al-Attiyah. “The new stages here were very hard on the cars. Tomorrow they are smoother and we can go faster. But it is not easy,” FIA Middle East Rally Championship official news reported.

Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi jetted with his routine flying stunt; however, his crucial third phase cost him the lead position on the first day rally. Al-Qassimi and Al-Attiyah took up the gear charge thereafter, with Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and Khalid Al-Suwaidi trailing along in a pair of Ford Fiestas.

The Qatari duet completed the overnight lapse in third and fourth places respectively. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi was in fifth following Jordan’s Alaa Rasheed, who was pushed to the sixth spot.

Emirati rookie, Mohamed Al-Mutawaa blazed the track in the new “Group N” race category under two-wheels while driving his R3 Citroën DS3 and Qatar’s Abdullah Al-Kuwari with his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X held the edge at halfway in the course.

According to FIA, the total rocky race course expands to accommodate special stages, which is set at a distance between 250 km and 300 km, and each special stage stretches to 33 km at length.

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