CC Saudi star Yazeed Al Rajhi set to drive Nissan in Hail Baja

(Ha'il Rally 2009…The Great Nafud Challenge), January 26th-29th, 2009
For immediate release
Wednesday, January 21st, 2009
· Saudi officials delighted with challenging route after recent checks
· GCC and international teams form one-third of 30-plus car entry
RIYADH (Saudi Arabia): Saudi Arabia's leading rally driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi has entered the forthcoming Ha'il Saudi Baja, which takes place in the north-central region of the Kingdom on January 26th-29th. The event is being organised by the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation under the patronage of HRH 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.

Al-Rajhi is also taking part in the Qatar International Rally this week in an exciting new Peugeot 207 S2000, run by the Belgian Kronos Racing team, and he has retained a Belgian allegiance for his home cross-country event in Ha'il.

Al-Rajhi will compete against an impressive list of over 30 drivers - a third of whom are international or GCC entrants - in a powerful Nissan Navara, run on the event by the Belgian Overdrive Racing Team under the management of Jean-Marc Fortin. Yazeed will be co-driven by the French co-driver Matthieu Baumel who, like Fortin, faces a mad dash from Argentina and the end of the Dakar Rally to the Middle East to line-up alongside Al-Rajhi.

Baumel was co-driving for Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit in the official X-raid BMW team in South America, but ruined his chance of taking a podium finish after a crash on the first stage between Buenos Aires and Santa Rosa de la Pampa. The Auxerre-based co-driver will also partner Yazeed in the Doha-based opening round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship this week. He was the winning co-driver last year.

"The Saudi Baja was really challenging last year," admitted Baumel. "It will be a new challenge with Yazeed and the Nissan, but I know him and his driving style well from the Middle East rallies and we will have a good chance of achieving a good result."

Fortin will have abour four days in Belgium this week to finalise his Saudi Arabian visa formalities before arriving in Ha'il to look after Yazeed's V6-engined Nissan. He was also co-driving in the recent Dakar Rally and achieved considerable success in another Overdrive Nissan Navara with the Polish driver Krzysztof Holowczyc.

Fortin attended the Saudi event last year to oversee the exploits of Russian Boris Gadasin, who eventually finished second overall behind Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, the revelation of the early stages of this year's Dakar Rally.

Officials at the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation have just carried out another route check to ensure that everything is in order for next week's event, although spokesman Hamoud Al-Jabri was quite surprised to report ice prevalent on some sections of the route through the Nafud desert - a phenomenon linked to the fact that the event is taking place slightly earlier in the FIA calendar and Saudi Arabian winter temperatures can be extreme, with desert temperatures plummeting to below zero once the sun begins to set.

"Yazeed is a very enthusiastic competitor from Saudi Arabia and we wish him every success next week with his new team," said Mishaal Al-Sudairy, chairman of the organising committee. "We have a strong entry from across the Middle East and the fact that we are not a counting round for the FIA Baja Championship this year will not detract from the quality or the excitement of our premier off-road event."

Further information is available from the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, PO Box 87881, Riyadh 11652, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Tel: + 9661 477 1035, Fax: + 9661 477 1050 and from Ramy Atwa, ram_atwa@yahoo.com or Hamoud Al-Jabry, Mobile: +966 560 623436, E-mail:aljabry@samf.gov.sa.

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2009 Ha'il Saudi Baja International Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com. www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases).

Date issued: 21/01/2009

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