MERC Araujo masters the sandy conditions in Saudi Arabia

Sharqia (Saudi) Rally 2008
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, official candidate event

For immediate release
Wednesday, November 12th, 2008


·Second place for Jordan's Farrah; Saudi's Al-Rajhi slips to third
·Clutch woes for Britain's Scialom; Kuwait's Al-Sabti and Jordan's Bustami out

HALF MOON BAY (Saudi Arabia): Portugal's visiting WRC star Armindo Araujo and co-driver Miguel Ramalho edged 1m 45s clear of their rivals after seven special stages of Saudi Arabia's new Sharqia Rally, based at Half Moon Bay in the Al-Khobar region of the Eastern Province, on Wednesday.

The Portuguese driver had trailed Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rajhi after the opening loop of desert stages, but overheating woes cost the local driver time during the afternoon and Al-Rajhi was also passed by Jordan's Amjad Farrah.

"I found a good rhythm over the second loop and began to push harder," said a determined Araujo. "The stages were not easy and finding a clear line in the sand was a challenge. I am getting used to it more and will continue to push on Thursday morning. It is a totally new experience for me, but it is good experience."

Yazeed Al-Rajhi had set the fastest time in the opening A'Zabnah stage and extended his advantage over Armindo Araujo to just under 30 seconds after the first loop of three sandy stages. Different driving styles caused the formation of several racing lines through the sandy corners, but Amjad Farrah managed to retain his composure to hold third position.

This trio were the class of the field over the opening three runs, with Majeed Al-Ghamdi alone in fourth position and Jordan's Ammar Hijazi and Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah fighting closely for fifth and sixth. Qatar's Jaber Al-Marri damaged an oil cooler and sustained a puncture, but managed to retain a position inside the top 10, where he was pursued by Saudi Arabia's Essa Al-Dossari and Lebanon's Doumit Bou Doumit.

Araujo upped the tempo over the second loop and cruised into the lead through the fourth stage, the Portuguese driver beating nearest rival Farrah by 42 seconds. He extended his advantage through the subsequent two stages to take a comfortable lead into the overnight halt.

Overheating problems cost Al-Rajhi his lead and the Saudi slipped to third overall, with Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah, Doumit Bou Doumit and Jordan's Ammar Al-Hijazi unofficially occupying fourth fifth and sixth places. "I am not happy with the afternoon," said Al-Rajhi. "We have lost time and I was not able to push because of the car."

Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al-Sabban slipped out of contention when his Toyota S2000 suffered suspension problems on the last two stages of the day. "It has not been our day," admitted the 14th-placed Saudi. "The suspension has cost us a lot of time."

Twenty-one of the original 22 starters began the second section of leg one on Thursday morning: Jordan's Faris Bustami had switched cars with Saudi Arabia's Essa Al-Dossari for the Sharqia Rally, but was concerned about the engine's oil pressure and decided to pull out after the spectator stage.

Kuwait's Meshari Al-Sabti damaged a rear axle and wheel on the opening desert stage, Britain's David Scialom suffered clutch problems and was forced to repair his Subaru in time for a SupeRally restart on Thursday, while Qatar's Mohammed Al-Marri suffered turbo-related woes.

"I am delighted that so few cars retired on the opening day and we have so many still in contention in the rally," enthused Mishaal Al-Sudairy, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF). "It shows that our stages are not too hard on the cars."

The event is being held under the patronage of HRH Prince Mohamed bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Governor of the Eastern Province and the Chairman of the Higher Committee for the new Saudi Rally.

Tomorrow (Thursday) there will be a further six special stages, the leg featuring reverse runs through Thursday's timed tests. Action gets underway with the A'Dannan special at 10.23hrs and is followed by runs through Ras Qaryah and Dhallum at 10.41hrs and 11.01hrs. The tests are repeated at 13.04hrs, 13.22hrs and 13.42hrs before the event draws to a conclusion at the King Fahd Coastal City with the ceremonial finish from 15.15hrs.

Positions after SS7 (end of leg one - unofficial @ 16.00hrs):
1. Armindo Araujo (P)/Miguel Ramalho (P) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution  57m 19s
2. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Ahmed Ghaziri (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX  59m 04s
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Subaru Impreza N14  59m 38s
4. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Subaru Impreza   1h 00m 43s
5. Doumit Bou Doumit (RL)/Loaay Saker (RL) Toyota Corolla   1h 02m 02s
6. Ammar Hijazi (HKJ)/Ata Al Hmoud (HKJ) Subaru Impreza   1h 02m 31s
7. Essa Al-Dossari (KSA)/Michael Morrissey (IRL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 1h 02m 52s 
8. Jaber Al-Marri (QA)/Ala'a Hmoud (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX  1h 03m 08s
9. Majed Al-Ghamdi (KSA)/Nicola Arena (I) Subaru Impreza   1h 03m 11s
10. Saeed Al-Mori (KSA)/Amr Rafai (KSA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX  1h 03m 54s
11. Faris Hijazi (HKJ)/Emad Juma (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution  1h 04m 13s


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, 2008 Saudi Rally International Press Officer, Sharqia Rally Media Centre, King Fahd Coastal City, Half Moon Bay, Saudi Arabia, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com. www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases).


Date issued: 12/11/2008

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