The Omani rally legend Hamed Al-Wahaibi.
Nicosia: The Omani rally legend Hamed Al-Wahaibi impressed on his return to international competition at the Cyprus Rally in Nicosia, round four of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) in 2021. He had a fifth and one on the first two special stages fourth fastest time before a setback cost him his place in the top 5 of SS3 on Saturday.
With the logistical support of Asyad Express, an Omani delivery and logistics company, and Sandan Development LLC (a new industrial area near Muscat), the 53-year-old and his co-driver Tony Sircombe enjoyed their return to the stages as a partnership Years in the FIA World Rally Championship.
Despite the setback on the third stage, the team will restart on Sunday according to the Rally2 regulations and hope to end the Cyprus run of the regional rally series.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t finish the stages on the first day,” said Al-Wahaibi. “We went off the road in a tight bend. Tony and I are still studying with the new car and will try to find out where the error occurred, maybe in the Pacenotes. We performed well before the accident. The car is in good condition and we can return for the last day. “
Sircombe added, “It was just one of those things. A little mistake in the notes it seems. It was a narrow corner with a slope. We knew it was getting tighter, but it was a little deceptive at first. It looked like it was much wider than it really is, and it upset us. “
Al-Wahaibi’s first taste of MERC rallying since 2011 was the short but demanding Nikitari gravel test. The Omani drove an impressive time in his Motortune race Škoda Fabia 1.6, finishing confidently in fifth place behind three experienced local drivers with stage knowledge and defending champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah.
Al-Wahaibi now got into his rhythm and a professional drive through the longer 20.07 km of the Kapouras Special brought him the fourth fastest time behind early leaders Simos Galatariotis, Alex Tsouloftas and Al-Attiyah. He moved within 1.1 seconds of Christos Demosthenous’ position in fourth place overall.
The last stage of the opening loop was a first pass through the 21.21 km of the longest stage of the rally in Kourdali. The stage win again went to Galatariotis and the Cypriot increased his overall lead over Tsouloftas to 27.9 seconds. But al-Wahaibi got off the road without damaging the car and was pushed out of the day’s action.
The sixth stage at the end of the second lap was canceled after an accident and the resulting fire destroyed Al-Attiyah’s Volkswagen Polo GTi. It meant that Galatariotis led the night from Tsouloftas.
Al-Wahaibi added, “Nasser had a minor accident and was a little off the road. The grass caught fire and the car was on fire, as happened to me in 2001 with Tony. The pace is so fast here. You can see the top of the corners. You (local drivers) know the lines. These stages were used at the ERC in 2019. It’s very impressive and the limit is very high. I am happy anyway. My pace is there and tomorrow I’ll balance the rally. “