Defending Middle East Rally Champion (MERC) Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar scored an important victory winning the 2009 Troodos Rally and taking the Championship lead ahead of the final two rounds of the 2009 MERC in Jordan and Dubai.
Ahead of this year’s Troodos Rally, Al-Attiyah sat third on the leadership board – eight points behind Yazeed Al-Rajhi of Saudi Arabia and one point behind second placed Misfer Al-Marri of Qatar.
Given Al-Attiyah’s past form in Cyprus (his victory here today marks his 7th consecutive Troodos Rally win!), a tense battle had been expected between Al-Rajhi and Al-Attiyah. But Al-Rajhi’s hopes of a strong finish were cut short when he exited in dramatic fashion on the first stage of the rally.
His Peugeot 207 S2000 landed badly after a jump, left the road and ended up perilously close to a sharp drop. Al-Rajhi restarted the event on day two under Superally, hoping to salvage points from the event, but a roll on during the morning saw him exit the event without points.
Al-Attiyah leaves Cyprus as Middle East Rally Championship leader with 30 points. Misfer Al-Mari retains second place with 29 points, while Al-Rajhi drops to third and remains on 28 points.
With Al-Rajhi out of contention for the win from day one, all eyes turned to the battle for first place between Feghali and Al-Attiyah.
After an assured drive through the challenging Cyprus stages on day one, Feghali held the overnight lead and started Sunday with a 5.3 second lead over Al-Attiyah.
But Al-Attiyah was determined from the off – stating at the Service Park before the day’s rallying started that he wasn’t just looking for the points here today, he was looking for the win.
The Qatari set the fastest time through the first stage of the day (SS7 – Anadiou Dam), immediately snatching the overall lead from Feghali, who managed third fastest through the stage behind Thomas.
Feghali picked up the pace again for SS8 (Foinokli), but it wasn’t enough to beat Al-Attiyah who stormed through the stage and extended his overall lead over Feghali to 12.3 seconds. Nicos Thomas came through third fastest.
Al-Attiyah maintained his onslaught to take the 16.57km SS9 (Argaka) 2.6 seconds ahead of Feghali, extending his overall lead to 14.9 seconds. Al-Rajhi’s plans for a cautious drive to secure 5 points came to a swift end in the stage when he rolled his Peugeot 207 S2000 – opening the way for Al-Attiyah to take the championship lead.
Al-Attiyah charged through the final stage of the morning, extending his overall lead over Feghali to 26.7 seconds and ensuring a clean sweep of the day’s stages so far.
Sunday morning saw 30 cars leave the Service Park and while the drivers admitted the stages were tough, there was an upbeat feel typical of the event.
As the afternoon got underway, the field had been reduced to 23, with the remaining drivers for the most part happy with their positions.
Al-Attiyah was obviously happy with his event so far and left the Service Park hoping to maintain a good pace. He promptly made fast work of SS11 (Anadiou Dam), taking the stage 20.3 seconds faster than Feghali.
Al-Attiyah continued to press ahead in SS12 (Foinokli), extending his lead over Feghali to 59.8 seconds.
Feghali found renewed pace in SS13 (Argaka), taking the stage 4.3 seconds faster than Al-Attiyah. Feghali also took the final stage of the day – SS14 (Stavros) – with a margin of 14.9 seconds over Al-Attiyah, but it was too late to change the outcome and the Qatari secured his 7th consecutive Troodos Rally victory.
The 2009 Troodos Rally is organised by the Cyprus Automobile Association (CAA) and supported by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation.
See all the pictures of the Troodos Rally 2009, and my blog pots for day 1 and day 2 of the Troodos Rally 2009.
Also, see all the pictures of the FxPro Cyprus Rally run in March 2009, and check out my blog posts for day 1, day 2 and day 3 of the FxPro Cyprus Rally 2009.