NASSER Al-Attiyah won WRC2 at Coates Hire Rally Australia on Sunday to extend his championship lead after a dramatic finale to the 10th round of the season.
Al-Attiyah led from start to finish in his Ford Fiesta RRC but came under attack from Yurii Protasov in the final leg, only for a jump start penalty to deny the Ukrainian and deal a blow to his title challenge.
Al-Attiyah’s 50.3sec opening-day lead was slashed to 14.3sec by Protasov on Saturday night after transmission problems and a misfire slowed the Qatari.
Protasov won Sunday’s opening three tests in his Fiesta RRC to reduce the gap to 6.9sec with two stages remaining before a 10sec penalty put victory out of reach.
Although he also won the final two stages, Al-Attiyah held on to win by 13.5sec.
“It wasn’t an easy weekend, but this is a big result in the defence of our title. It’s an important 25 points for us,” said Al-Attiyah, who was lucky not to hit a tree after stalling his engine in Sunday’s opening stage.
Victory put Al-Attiyah 17 points clear of Protasov, who moved second in the standings.
Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, who finished more than two minutes behind in third, moved to third in the championship, eight points behind Protasov and two ahead of the absent Esapekka Lappi.
Coffs Coast local Nathan Quinn finished fourth and won the Production Cup class within WRC 2 in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX. Gianluca Linari was fifth and took the lead in the Production Cup points, with Australian champion Scott Pedder – recovering after a crash on Friday – the only other finisher in sixth.