Cardiff, Wales, September 13 (QNA) – Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah has got something none of his FIA World Rally Championship rivals have: a medal from the London 2012 Olympics. And to prove it he brought it along to free practice for Wales Rally GB.
As well as being a multiple FIA title-winning rally driver, Al-Attiyah won a bronze medal in the men s skeet shooting section of the London Olympics back in the summer during a break from his WRC campaign in a Qatar World Rally Team Citroen DS3 WRC.
“I wait for this moment for a long time,” he said of his Olympic heroics. “Three times I have been in the Olympics but never before have I taken a medal. Now I have a bronze medal I am very happy because it really was not easy and I know a lot of good shooters who win world championships and world cups but never get an Olympic medal.”
He continued: “For this rally I have a good feeling and I am so happy to be here and to drive on gravel. We try to do our best in the race and to enjoy also. It will not be easy but at least we have a good car.”
Al-Attiyah, who is co-driven by Italian Giovanni Bernacchini, is currently 11th in the WRC standings.
Sebastien Loeb will be the first driver to select his road position for Wales Rally GB’s opening stages on Friday after he topped a dramatic Qualifying Stage in his Citroen DS3 WRC. Loeb, who is chasing his ninth FIA World Rally Championship drivers title and Citroen s eighth makes award this season, took 2m22.260s to complete the 3.91-kilometre stage at the Walters Arena complex north of the event base in Cardiff.
“It was a good run,” said the French ace and current WRC title leader. “I made one or two small mistakes but I am happy, it was not raining for me.”
But while Loeb has gained an early advantage in his bid for his fourth Rally GB triumph, rival Petter Solberg was left frustrated as it began to rain just as he was about to launch his Ford Fiesta RS WRC from the stage start.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said after losing out to Loeb by 0.051s. “The rain tap is turned on again at the start line just like in Germany . I didn t know what the grip would be like and I was braking too early for some of the corners. It’s frustrating but I still have one aim and that is to win.”
With drivers picking their road position at the ceremonial start in Llandudno on Thursday evening in order of fastest to slowest, Solberg will select his place on the road after Loeb.
Mikko Hirvonen, in the second works Citroen, was third quickest with Citroen Junior Thierry Neuville – making his Rally GB debut – fourth fastest, +0.878s down on Loeb. Factory Ford pilot and last year’s winner Jari-Matti Latvala was fifth quickest, 1.133s slower than Loeb with Ford privateer Mads Ostberg completing the top six.
Matthew Wilson, contesting a Qualifying Stage for the first time in his career, was ninth fastest with Chris Atkinson the leading MINI John Cooper Works WRC driver in 11th place. The Australian reported sliding wide at one corner but was otherwise satisfied with his efforts.
Local children and government representatives will join each crew when they take to the start podium to choose their road position in Llandudno, a popular seaside resort in the north of Wales, from 19:00hrs local time on Thursday 13 September.
Prior to the starting ceremony, crews will take part in an autograph signing session in Llandudno from 17:30hrs. A display of iconic cars from the 80-year history of the event will also be on display on the town s promenade. Vehicles set to feature include Colin McRae s 2001 Ford Focus WRC.
The first special stage, Dyfnant 1, goes live at 08:13hrs local time on Friday.(END)