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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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Nasser adds missing Lebanon Rally title to trophy cupboard

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah wards off home hero Roger Feghali’s challenge to cruise to victory.
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Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah clinched his maiden title in the Rally of Lebanon with a dominating performance. Photo: Rally of Lebanon website

Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah and his French co-driver Matthieu Baumel coasted to victory in the 42nd Lebanon International Rally, a huge 7min margin separating the duo from second-placed Rodrigue Rahi and Georges Nader of Lebanon.

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Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel romped to victory in Rally of Lebanon.Photo: Matthieu Baumel/Twitter

For Nasser, the win was significant as it was his first in Lebanon. He had won 71 rallies in the Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), but not even once there. Today, he set that record straight.

The main reason for Nasser’s close misses at the Rally of Lebanon in the past has been home challenger Roger Feghali. The experienced driver, who has 13 wins in the MERC Rally in his backyard, proved just too hot to handle at home.

RESULTS:

  • 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar)/Matthieu Baumel (France) 2:06:19.3
  • 2. Rodrigue Rahi (Lebanon)/ Georges Nader (Lebanon) 2:13:28.6
  • 3. Patrick Njeim (Lebanon)/Thierry Rouhanna (Lebanon) 2:14:55.6
  • 4. Massaad Henry (Lebanon) /Roger Ghosn (Lebanon) 2:19:45.5
  • 5. Tarek Younis (Lebanon) /Nader Hamzi (Lebanon) 2:22:37.5

And on Friday, there were indications of another setback for Nasser in his title bid. Roger started on a winning note on the Beirut Waterfront in the Super Special Stage, relegating Nasser to second. The early jolt saw Nasser trailing in second position till SS3, all his efforts to move up seemingly proving futile. But a great effort in SS4 saw the Qatari driver gaining a slender 0.3sec advantage, but it did not mean much as Roger was expected to come back strongly.

That was when disaster struck the Lebanese driver. He suffered a puncture on SS5 and never really recovered from that. Nasser meanwhile went from strength to strength.

The other challengers from Lebanon were no match for the Qatari as he pulled further away from the rest of the field after each stage to notch up a win.

Qatar’s Nasser Al Kuwari, co-driver to Kuwait’s Mshari Althefiri finished sixth, the duo finding the Lebanese challenge difficult to negotiate.

Nasser now has three wins from three races in this year’s MERC and leads the driver’s standings.

Two rallies – the Cyprus Rally later in September and the Kuwait International Rally in October-November – remain in the season.

Judging by the pace Nasser has set, he looks set to add another MERC title to the 14 he has already won.