Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi extended his advantage in the Ha’il International Rally from 22min 18sec to 51min 28sec after setting the fastest time in the second 258km selective section through Saudi Arabia’s expansive An Nafud desert on Tuesday.
Al-Rajhi and French co-driver Alex Winocq were never troubled in their powerful Hummer on the diverse special stage and controlled the outcome from the front to edge further clear of Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal and his Polish co-driver Maciej Marton in the second Hummer with a time of 3hrs 40min 46sec.
“It was another good stage for me today,” said Al-Rajhi. “The car was working well and we have a good lead now to take into the longest stage of the event on Wednesday.” It was later discovered that there is a problem with an engine cylinder and Yazeed’s mechanics were working on the Hummer at the service back in Ha’il after the stage, although the team is confident that the Saudi will be able to continue.
Ahmed Al-Shaqawi reached the Jubbah finish with the fourth fastest time and that was sufficient for the Saudi to snatch third overall in his Race World Team Nissan. Khalaf-Saleh Al-Joaan (Toyota) held fourth, while inaugural event winner Rajih Al-Shammeri – who had started the day in 20th overall after first day problems– set the third quickest time and moved up to sixth behind Mfadi Al-Shammeri.
Sami Al-Shammeri hit mechanical trouble before the first passage control and lost his third position in the general classification with the Saudi Isuzu D-Max. Engine woes had ruined Mtair Abdullah Al-Shammeri’s chances of winning the event on Monday, but the Toyota FJ Cruiser driver bounced back with a furious pace on leg two, despite starting the day from the back of the field in 31st position. He passed around 20 cars before rolling his Toyota after PC5, but neither member of the crew was injured. He had even been quicker than Al-Rajhi through the opening three passage controls.
After first day delays of nearly two hours, the Emirati duo of Yayha Al-Helai and Khalid Al-Kendi began the second day from 26th overall of the 33 cars, six bikes and seven quads that restarted. They were running as high as fifth on the day’s stage before hitting further trouble late on. Among the other drivers with problems on the day were Matar Al-Mansoori, Farhan Ghaleb Al-Shammeri, Abdul Al-Saleh, Saleh Al-Saleh and Ahmed Al-Suhail.
Saudi’s Rakan Al-Saloum clawed back much of the time he had lost to Emirati Atif Al-Zarouni on the opening selective section by setting the fastest time amongst the quads on Tuesday. The stage win across the shorter stage for the riders ensured that he maintained second position behind Al-Zarouni and closed to within eight minutes of the experienced Emirati.
The UAE’s Khalid Al-Falasi maintained the advantage in the motorcycle category, despite starting the day’s section first on the road and being forced to carry out much of the navigation himself. Al-Falaisi posted a useful time nonetheless and extended his lead in the two-wheel category to 8min 20sec after Saudi Adel Al-Shaybani lost time. Abdulaziz Al-Hazlool holds third.
The An Nafud desert is one of the best kept secrets in world cross-country rallying, with a diverse range of terrain available for motor sport, including, wadis, gravel trails, stunning mountains, rocky areas, sand flats, fast and winding tracks and treacherous sand dunes. “Some of the terrain here is wonderful and scenic, classic tracks for cross-country rallying,” said Zapletal.
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 Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (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.
Officials at the SAMF have left nothing to chance in terms of safety and security for competitors on the special stages, with the event running in conjunction with the local police to ensure everything runs according to plan and to FIA guidelines.
Wednesday’s third competitive section of 304 km is the longest of the event and the penultimate stage on the extended Ha’il event, which draws to a close with the finishing ceremony at the Maghwat Conference Centre from 19.00hrs on Thursday evening.
Positions after Leg 2 (unofficial @ 14.00hrs):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Alex Winocq (FRA) Hummer 6hrs 13min 22sec
2. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Maciej Marton (POL) Hummer 7hrs 04min 50sec
3. Ahmed Al-Shaqawi (KSA)/Arif Yousif Mohammed (UAE) Nissan 7hrs 34min 39sec
4. Khalaf-Saleh Al-Joaan (KSA)/Ahmed Al-Shammeri (KSA) Toyota 7hrs 36min 10sec
5. Yaser Al-Saidan (KSA)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Polaris 7hrs 54min 05sec
6. Mfadi Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Fahad Al-Shammeri (KSA) Toyota 8hrs 05min 25sec
7. Rajih Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Mubarak Al-Shammeri (KSA) Nissan 8hrs 07min 05sec
8. M. Sunaidi (KSA)/H. Al-Loghami (UAE) Nissan 8hrs 18min 25sec
9. Ahmed Al-Qashimi (KSA)/Abdelhalim Bin-Zayed (UAE) Nissan 8hrs 22min 49sec
10. Meteb Saud Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Abdullah Al-Eneyzen (KSA) Toyota 8hrs 23min 46sec, etc
1. Khalid Al-Falasi (UAE) 2hrs 24min 21sec
2. Adel Al-Shaybani (KSA) 2hrs 32min 41sec
3. Abdulaziz Al-Hazlool (KSA) 2hrs 38min 42sec
4. Ahmed Al-Naser (KSA) 2hrs 46min 13sec
5. Mohammed Ali (KSA) 3hrs 20min 07sec
6. Tariq Al-Batah (KSA) 3hrs 22min 26sec
1. Atif Al-Zarouni (UAE) 2hrs 31min 07sec
2. Rakan Al-Saloum (KSA) 2hrs 39min 51sec
3. Abdul Majid Al-Kholaifi (KSA) 2hrs 50min 47sec
4. Yousef Al-Daid (KSA) 2hrs 58min 02sec
5. Hamad Al-Haydan (KSA) 2hrs 59min 16sec
6. Abdullah Al-Shabi (KSA) 4hrs 15min 34sec
7. Moaataz Al-Jrabih (KSA) 4hrs 21min 33sec
Press: Ha’il International Rally