Defending FIA Middle East rally champion, Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, leads an impressive entry of 20 drivers and competitors from nine nations into this weekend’s Kuwait International Rally.
The event will be decided over 13 gravel special stages on Friday and Saturday and is being organised by the Basil Salem Al-Sabah Motor Racing Club (BMRC) in conjunction with the Kuwait International Automobile Club (KIAC).
Al-Attiyah was involved in a fascinating and victorious tussle with the Ukrainian driver Yuriy Protasox for supremacy in the WRC2 category of Rally Mexico last weekend and the Qatari was joined by his French co-driver Matthieu Baumel and rivals Abdulaziz Al-Kuqari and Marshall Clarke on a frantic dash through nine time zones to make the conclusion of the recce in Kuwait. They were also joined by team manager Ken Skidmore and several mechanics from Autotek Motorsport on the punishing commute.
The quartet arrived in Kuwait today and will need, not only to acclimatise to a new sleep pattern, but they will also have to adapt their plans to cope with high-speed desert special stages instead of the technical mountainous specials they faced at altitude in Mexico.
Their closest rivals have had ample opportunities to prepare and rest in Kuwait and Khalid Al-Qassimi and Yazeed Al-Rajhi will be hoping that fatigue and jet lag hinder the Qatari duo. Al-Attiyah arrives in Kuwait with a seven-point lead in the championship after his win in Qatar.
Al-Qassimi shadowed Al-Attiyah to the finish in Doha, but a podium finish takes on extra significance for Al-Rajhi. The Saudi failed to finish or score points in Qatar and needs to get points on the board on this event, which runs under the patronage of Sheikh Athbi Nayef Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.
“The Kuwait International Rally is one of my favourite events in the calendar,“ said Al-Qassimi. “I won here in 2010. The stages are well defined and the terrain is less rugged compared to other rallies. But it is just as competitive. I finished second last year and we are aiming for repeat performance to 2010. I am aiming for first place again.”
Qatar has strength in depth on the entry list. Abdulaziz’s uncle Abdullah Al-Kuwari teams up with Irish co-driver Killian Duffy in a Ford Fiesta R5 and Al-Attiyah’s brother Khalifa Al-Attiyah makes it a real family affair at the top of the leader board for Qatari drivers.
Kuwait is well represented on the entry list and Masoud Al-Saleh wheels out a Ford Fiesta S2000 and is seeded at eight alongside navigator Sulaimam Al-Helal.
Salah bin Eidan finished an excellent fourth overall in Qatar and claimed maximum points in the Group N Trophy. He and Slovenian navigator Vili Oslaj will be hard pushed to match the Regional Rally Cars in Kuwait, but Bin Eidan will be hoping to claim a repeat showroom category success in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Main competition comes from Meshari Al-Thafiri, Saleh Al-Aly, Dawood Al-Gharabally and Mohammed Al-Thafiri of Kuwait and Qatar’s Rashid Al-Naimi.
Four Abu Dhabi Racing junior drivers missed the opening round in Qatar, but they begin their 2015 campaign in a quartet of Citroën DS3s in the two-wheel drive category. Mohammed Al-Mutawee, Mohammed Al-Sahlawi, Mansoor Ben Helai and Saeed Bin Towq drive the French cars with Stephen McAuley, Craig Parry, Khalid Al-Kendi and Allan Harryman offering their experience as co-drivers.
The German Edith Weiss and her Greek navigator Vicky Psarakis are the sole female crew on the entry list. Weiss finished eighth overall in Qatar last month and holds third in the Group N Trophy.
Crews completed their two-day reconnaissance of the special stages today and the competitive action takes place on Friday and Saturday.
2015 Kuwait International Rally – list of entries
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Ford Fiesta RRC
2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Chris Patterson (GBR) Citroën DS3 RRC
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Michael Orr (GBR) Ford Fiesta RRC
4. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Marshall Clarke (GBR) Ford Fiesta RRC
5. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QAT)/John Higgins (IRL) Ford Fiesta RRC
6. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Adel Hussein (QAT) Ford Fiesta RRC
7. Abdullah Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Ford Fiesta R5
8. Masoud Al-Saleh (KUW)/Sulaiman Al-Helal (KUW) Ford Fiesta S2000
9. Salah bin Eidan (KUW)/Vili Oslaj (SLO) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
10. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KUW)/Mubarak Al-Thafiri (KUW) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
12. Saleh Al-Aly (KUW)TBA Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII
14. Dawood Al-Gharabally (KUW)/Fares Al-Thahfiri (KUW) Subaru Impreza
15. Rashid Al-Naimi (QAT)/Arif Yousef Mohammed (ARE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
16. Mohammed Al-Mutawee (ARE)/Stephen McAuley (GBR) Citroën DS3
17. Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (ARE)/Craig Parry (GBR) Citroën DS3
18. Elie Chachati (KUW)/Naji Sfeir (LEB) Subaru Impreza
19. Edith Weiss (GER)/Vicky Psarakis (GRE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
20. Mansoor Bel Helai (ARE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (ARE) Citroën DS3
21. Saeed Bin Towq (ARE)/Allan Harryman (GBR) Citroën DS3
22. Mohammed Al-Thafiri (KUW)/Nawaf Alenezi (KUW) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V111