Defending champion Yazeed Al-Rajhi surged into a near 18-second lead after the opening timed five-kilometre super special of the Ha’il International Rally, Saudi Arabia’s flagship FIA-sanctioned cross-country rally, which is taking place through the north-central region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the next four days.
Driving the powerful Hummer that Robbie Gordon used to such great effect in the gruelling Dakar Rally, Al-Rajhi and new French co-driver Alex Winocq set an unofficial time of 3min 18sec to lead the event from Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal, also at the wheel of a Hummer with Polish co-driver Maciej Marton.
Saudi Arabian driver Mtair Al-Shammeri held third position with a time of 3min 38sec in his Toyota F Cruiser and Emirati Yayha Al-Helai was fourth overall in a Nissan. Thirty-four cars began the day’s timed stage.
Bikes and quads tackled the event for the first time and followed the cars through the super special stage. Leading UAE rider Khalid Al-Falasi set the pace in the two-wheel category with an impressive time of 4min 07.3sec to take the lead from Saudi’s Abdulaziz Al-Hazlool.
Atif Al-Zarouni was in flying form in the quad category and the Emirati posted the target time of 3min 59.49sec, but his effort was later eclipsed by the Saudi rider and overnight quad leader Rakan Al-Saloum.
The event is being staged under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Saud Bin Abdul Mohsen Bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Ha’il, President of the Supreme Commission for Ha’il Development and the Head of the Supreme Commission of the Ha’il Rally. The SAMF runs under the chairmanship of His Royal Highness Prince Sultan Bin Bandar Al-Faisal and the event is being organised in conjunction with the High Authority for the Development of Ha’il.
The first of four desert selective sections (256km) gets underway on Monday (March 25th) and the competitive action finishes on Thursday with the finishing ceremony rounding off proceedings at 19.00hrs.
Positions after super special stage (unofficial):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Alex Winocq (FRA) Hummer 3min 18.92sec
2. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Maciej Marton (POL) Hummer 3min 36.43sec
3. Mtair Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Abdullah Al-Qnoun (KSA) Toyota FJ Cruiser 3min 38.76sec
4. Yayha Al-Helai (UAE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE) Nissan 3min 50.14sec
5. Matar Al-Mansoori (UAE)/Ahmed Al-Hajri (OMN) Nissan 3min 51.29sec
6. Abdul Al-Saleh (KSA)/Ali Mirza (UAE) Nissan 3min 57.34sec, etc
1. Khalid Al-Falasi (UAE) 4min 07.03sec
2. Abdulaziz Al-Hazlool (KSA) 4min 37.30sec
3. Ahmed Al-Naser (KSA) 4min 57.29sec
4. Mohammed Ali (KSA) 5min 08.33sec
5. Adel Al-Shaybani (KSA) 5min 32.59sec
1. Rakan Al-Saloum (KSA) 3min 44.72sec
2. Atif Al-Zarouni (UAE) 3min 59.49sec
3. Nawaf Al-Naimi (KSA) 4min 04.45sec
4. Abdul Majid Al-Kholaifi (KSA) 4min 07.47sec
5. Yousef Al-Daid (KSA) 4min 09.67sec
6. Moaataz Al-Jrabih (KSA) 4min 17.65sec
7. Abdullah Al-Shabi (KSA) 5min 14.99sec
Press: Ha’il International Rally/Neil Perkins