Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini finished what was a near-perfect performance in this year's FIA Middle East Rally Championship on another high last weekend as they piloted their Ford Fiesta RRC to victory at the Dubai International Rally.
Tackling the desert stages around Dubai, the pairing claimed seven stage wins from a possible 12 on offer. The stages were amongst some of the most difficult in the championship, with extremely high speeds and treacherous rocks littering the route, but that failed to halt the Qatari who emerged victorious with a winning margin in excess of five minutes.
Come the rally end, the Fiesta RRC claimed a clean-sweep of the podium with Misfer Al-Marri and Nicola Arena finishing second and Abdullah Al-Qassimi and Steve Lancaster third. There were also five Ford Fiestas in the top six. When coupled to the fact that the Fiesta RRC has won every event in this year's championship, M-Sport's dominance within the series is underlined.
Not only did this year see Al-Attiyah claim the Middle Eastern title for an impressive ninth time, it also saw him do it in style. Of the six rounds contested, the Olympian can boast five victories, claiming the runner-up spot behind fellow Fiesta RRC driver and local-hero Roger Feghali on the only event he failed to win – the Rally of Lebanon.
Speaking after last weekend's result, Nasser Al-Attiyah said:
"I had a good strategy. I was careful because I didn't want to get any punctures – this is not an easy rally because it is very fast and there are a lot of rocks. But we managed the situation from start to finish, and I am very happy to have secured another victory here in Dubai. It has been a fantastic season for us, so a big thank-you to Qatar, to Giovanni [Bernacchini, co-driver] and to all of our sponsors and supporters."
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
"What a fantastic achievement for Nasser [Al-Attiyah] and the [Ford] Fiesta RRC. Nasser has been very impressive this season – to win five out of the six rounds, and finish second on the only one he failed to win, is no mean feat, so a big congratulations to both him and Giovanni [Bernacchini, co-driver].
"It has also been a great season for the Fiesta RRC. We certainly didn't expect to win every single round as we did in South Africa with the [Ford Fiesta] S2000, and I am extremely proud of this fantastic achievement."