Kuwait’s Al-Thefiri experienced cruel engine failure; Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari rolled on SS9
Kuwait International Rally - Khaled Al-Suwaidi/Hugo Magalhães, event winners
Qatar’s Khaled Al-Suwaidi and his Portuguese co-driver Hugo Magalhães held off a late charge from Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah to claim a stunning victory in the 26th Kuwait International Rally.
The Qatari inherited the lead on the first stage of the day, eased his pace over the last two stages in his SRT Škoda and was rewarded with a second MERC rally victory. In fact, the success was a second MERC triumph for both driver and co-driver, with Al-Suwaidi triumphing in Kuwait back in 2012 and Magalhães partnering Rashid Al-Naimi to victory in Qatar in 2017.
A delighted Al-Suwaidi said: “I thank god for the win. My target even before I came to Kuwait was to win the rally. This is my third podium here. I finished third in 2010 and I won in 2012. I am so pleased to achieve this, especially after four years’ absence from the scene.”
Punctures had wrecked Al-Attiyah’s and French co-driver Mathieu Baumel’s chances of taking the win on day one and there just too few kilometres in Saturday’s itinerary for the Qatari to mount a realistic fight back in his Autotek Volkswagen Polo GTI. Predictably, he won each of the final day’s four desert stages to confirm second overall and extend his lead in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship after three rounds.
Overnight leaders, Meshari Al-Thefiri and Qatari co-driver Nasser Al-Kuwari, suffered a cruel engine failure on their Škoda Fabia R2 evo three kilometres into the first stage of the morning. Al-Thefiri had stood to become the first Kuwaiti ever to win a round of the MERC and the first to win the Kuwait Rally since his father Ahmed secured the win back in 1981.
Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and Irish co-driver James Fulton looked set for a podium finish until the Qatari rolled his Škoda Fabia out of contention midway through the penultimate stage.
The Kuwaiti pairing of Mohammed Al-Thefiri and Mubarak Al-Dhafiri were the class of the MERC2 field for the entire rally in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. They had the added bonus of rounding off the podium places in third.
Mohammed Al-Thefiri/Mubarak Al-Dhafiri, MERC2 winners
Kuwait’s Jassim Al-Muqahwi and Thamer Al-Mutairi finished fourth and second in the MERC2 section. Qatar’s Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya and Italy’s Giovanni Bernacchini lost their way in the ninth stage and reached the finish in fifth place in a Motortune-run Ford Fiesta. But the pair was given a 15-minute penalty by the Stewards for deviating from the route and causing some competitors behind them to slow down, which made them eventually drop to seventh place in the overall classification.
As a result of Al-Atya’s penalty, the Jordanian duo of Shadi Shaban and Issa Abu Jamous rounded off the depleted list of finishers in fifth and sixth overall.
Jordan’s Ihab Al-Shorafa and Khaled Juma and the Omani duo of Zakariya Al-Aamri and Abdullah Al-Rawahi didn’t restart on Saturday. Kuwait’s Yousef Al-Dhafeeri did restart but failed to tackle the seventh stage.
Action in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship resumes in Jordan in May.
2022 Kuwait International Rally – Final unofficial classification:
1. Khaled Al-Suwaidi (QAT)/Hugo Magalhães (PRT), Škoda Fabia R2 evo, 1hr 31min 11.3sec
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA), Volkswagen Polo GTI, 1hr 31min 49.4sec
3. Mohammed Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Mubarak Al-Dhafiri (KWT), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, 1hr 42min 15.5sec
4. Jassim Al-Muqahwi (KWT)/Thamer Al-Mutairi (KWT), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, 1hr 49min 43.3sec
5. Shadi Shaban (JOR)/Suleiman Al-Helal (KWT), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, 1hr 56min 11.6sec
6. Issa Abu Jamous (JOR)/Emad Juma (JOR), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, 2hr 05min 43.8sec
7. Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA), Ford Fiesta, 2hr 10min 13.2sec