MERC Saudi Arabian driver Yazeed Al Rajhi wins Sharqia Rally

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

For immediate release
Thursday, November 13th, 2008


·Second place for Jordan's Farrah; Qatar's Al-Attiyah takes third
·Kingdom of Saudi Arabia looks ahead to joining MERC in 2009

HALF MOON BAY (Saudi Arabia): Yazeed Al-Rajhi and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel clinched a dramatic victory in Saudi Arabia's new FIA candidate Sharqia Rally on Thursday afternoon. The pair eventually finished 21.2 seconds clear of Jordan's Amjad Farrah and Lebanese co-driver Ahmed Ghaziri after 13 special stages and two days of competition in the Half Moon Bay area of the Al-Khobar region of Saudi's Eastern Province.

The final day developed into an epic battle between Farrah and Al-Rajhi, once Portugal's Armindo Araújo had been forced to withdraw his Mitsubishi before the restart. Farrah held a 13-second lead with two stages remaining, but the Saudi - a winner of the Kuwait candidate event earlier this year - completed his second international win by putting in two sensational stage times over the closing pair of sandy tests. Qatar's Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Rashid Al-Sulaiti clinched the final podium place.

"I knew that I had to push hard to win, but I wanted to win my home rally," insisted a delighted Al-Rajhi. "It was a great fight with Amjad this afternoon. I left nothing to chance over the last three stages and it worked. To win here is like a dream for me."

"I would like to congratulate the Saudi organisers on an excellent rally," said Farrah. "It was very enjoyable. The stages were challenging and we had a great battle over the last few stages with Yazeed. We look forward to coming here again in the future."

Sixteen of the original 22 cars resumed on Thursday morning, with England's David Scialom restarting under SupeRally, although Scialom was only planning to tackle leg two's stages as a test for his car before the final round of the regional series in Dubai after sand had clogged his radiator on Wednesday.

Event officials had monitored the passage of cars carefully over the opening day's stages using the championship's useful tracking system and Jaber Al-Marri was awarded a 10-minute time penalty for straying too far off the route. This was reduced to five minutes and the Qatari slipped from eighth to 13th at the restart.

Portugal's Armindo Araújo should have headed into the first of six sandy tests at A'Dannan with a handsome 1m 45s lead. But the Portuguese driver was unable to restart after event officials discovered that his car may have been interfered with during the overnight halt.

"There was a possibility that the driveability of the car may have been compromised by a human error," said Mishaal Al-Sudairy, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF). "The Saudi Arabian Motor Federation will carry out a full investigation into this unfortunate incident."

Kuwait's Meshari Al-Thafiri set the quickest time in the opening stage, as Farrah extended his lead over Al-Rajhi to 35 seconds with the second fastest time. But the Saudi hit back with a vengeance in SS9 and reduced the lead by 21 seconds. He was fastest again in the Dhallum stage and the pair returned to the King Fahd Coastal City separated by a mere eight seconds. "It's quite a battle out there this morning," admitted Farrah. "It's a case of keeping the concentration and driving hard."

Khalifa Al-Attiyah held a solid third place, with Essa Al-Dossari in fourth and Jordan's Ammar Hijazi and Saudi's Saeed Al-Mouri fighting for fifth overall. A mere two seconds was the gap after SS10, as Majed Al-Ghamdi lost four minutes in SS9 unblocking a clogged air filter and several cars sported bodywork damage from the heavy sand.

Al-Mouri drove 32 km on the road section into service with a front-right puncture. The tyre was down to the wire by the time he reached the control. Saudi's Ahmed Al-Sabban suffered in the treacherous sand and was running with the fear of clutch problems in his Toyota. The fluid overheated on the last stage of the loop and, by the time it had cooled down, he was over his time limit. 

Farrah extended his lead to 13 seconds through SS11, but Al-Rajhi pushed hard through the closing kilometres to set two stunning times and clinch victory on his home event. Al-Attiyah maintained third place, Saudi Arabia's Essa Al-Dossari was fourth and Jordan's Ammar Hijazi confirmed fifth overall when 23-year-old Saudi rally debutant Saeed Al-Mouri lost time with gearbox and suspension problems on the final stage and slipped to ninth behind Jordan's Faris Hijazi, Kuwait's Meshari Al-Thafiri and Saudi's Majed Al-Ghamdi.

Jordan's Ibrahim Muhawish succumbed to turbo problems after the 11th stage, but Bahrain's Abdulrahman Ghuloom managed to finish 12th.

"I would like to thank all our officials and competitors for making this successful event possible," added Mishaal Al-Sudairy. "We are looking forward to taking this event to another level in 2009 and encouraging local drivers to reach the high standard and performance that was set by our visiting Portuguese team over the first day's special stages."

The Sharqia Rally was 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, and is scheduled to take its place as the third round of next year's FIA Middle East Rally Championship on April 7th-9th (subject to final FIA approval).

Final positions after SS13 (unofficial @ 15.30hrs):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Subaru Impreza N14  1h 54m 31.9s
2. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Ahmed Ghaziri (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX  1h 54m 53.1s
3. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution   1h 58m 50.7s
4. Essa Al-Dossari (KSA)/Michael Morrissey (IRL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 2h 01m 14.3s 
5. Ammar Hijazi (HKJ)/Ata Al-Hmoud (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution   2h 02m 08.7s
6. Faris Hijazi (HKJ)/Emad Juma (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution  2h 03m 35.3s
7. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT)/Fares Al-Thafiri (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX  2h 04m 27.2s
8. Majed Al-Ghamdi (KSA)/Nicola Arena (I) Subaru Impreza   2h 05m 23.4s
9.  Saeed Al-Mouri (KSA)/Amr Al-Rafai (KSA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX  2h 05m 37.1s
10. Jaber Al-Marri (QA)/Ala'a Al-Hmoud (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX  2h 08m 37.5s


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: 13/11/2008

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