CC Yazeed Al Rajhi romps into comfortable lead in Saudi Baja

(Ha'il Rally 2009…The Great Nafud Challenge), January 27th-29th, 2009
Leg 2: Ha'il - Ha'il
Liaison, 61km; Selective section, 305km; Liaison, 94.85km; Total, 460.85km.

For immediate release
Wednesday, January 28th, 2009
·UAE's Powell and Czech Zapletal hold second and third positions 
·Saudi's Al-Ghamdi, Al-Ghaleb, Al-Saleh and Al-Dossari forced out
·SAMF's Mishaal Al-Sudairy set to invite bikes and trucks to Ha'il in 2010
HA'IL (Saudi Arabia): Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rajhi and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel cruised into an emphatic 25m 54.3s lead after the second 305km selective section of the 2009 Saudi Ha'il Baja, in the Ar Nafud desert, on Wednesday.

The Nissan Navara crew bolted into the distance as soon as the longest desert section of the event began north of Jubba and gradually extended their advantage throughout the day. No competitor could match the aggressive driving style of the off-road rookie and the Dubai-based British crew of Mark Powell and Paul Richards eventually finished the stage a distant second overall in their Honda Buggy.

"It was a fantastic experience for me to take part in a Baja race," said Al-Rajhi. "I really got into a good rhythm and enjoyed the car and the stage immensely. We have a good lead after the first day, but I am under no illusions that it will be difficult tomorrow. I want to win this rally so much. I am determined."

The UAE's Abdullah Al-Herais and Suhail Al-Ali held third overall in a Nissan Patrol until they suffered differential problems in the closing kilometres. This enabled 2007 winner Rajeh Al-Shammeri to make full use of his knowledge of the local desert terrain to hold third, but time penalties for clocking in early at two controls cost him eight minutes and he slipped to fourth overall behind Miroslav Zapletal. The Czech driver had been forced to use his older Mitsubishi Pajero in Saudi Arabia, as his usual Mitsubishi L200 is still en route from the Dakar Rally in Argentina to Europe.

The event is being held under the patronage of HRH Prince Saud Bin Abdul Mohsen Bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Ha'il, President of the High Commission for the Development of the Ha'il region and the Head of the Supreme Commission of the Ha'il Rally. He will present the major awards at the ceremonial finish on Thursday afternoon.

Saudi Arabian Motor Federation president Mishaal Al-Sudairy also took the opportunity on Wednesday to show Stephan Carapiet, President of the Asian Motocross and Enduro Commission and the Vice-President of the Asian Motorcycle Union, around the Baja facilities in Ha'il.

"We are looking to expand our event to include motorcycles and trucks in 2010 and we are confident that we will get the full support of the various federations to attract as many riders and drivers as possible," added Al-Sudairy.

Yazeed Al-Rajhi sped into the lead from the start of the day's stage, the Saudi defying his lack of off-road experience to push his Nissan well clear of Zapletal's Mitsubishi. Abdullah Al-Dossari's Isuzu D-Max stopped with clutch problems early on, Ibrahim Al-Muhana was delayed, Moneef Al-Sulaimani stopped with a minor electrical fire after problems with his Nissan's fuel pump and Farhan Al-Ghaleb suffered differential failure.

As Al-Rajhi extended his overall stage lead to 13m 13s at the first virtual timing checkpoint, Majed Al-Ghamdi lost his place running inside the top four, as Abdullah Al-Herais, Safah Al-Saedi and Ahmed Al-Sheqawi took up the reins to chase the flying Al-Rajhi. Qatar's Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani lost 40 minutes reaching the checkpoint.

Matar Al-Mansouri was delayed as Al-Rajhi continued his flying form to the second checkpoint and extended his overall stage lead to 16m 24s. Al-Ghamdi was still stationery with electrical trouble by the time Al-Herais reached the second checkpoint in a comfortable second position. Abdulaziz Al-Yaaesh, Toyota Rally Team rookie Saleh Al-Saleh (electrics) and Farhan Al-Ghaleb had stopped, but Powell was on a charge in his Honda-engined Buggy.

Al-Rajhi had extended his stage lead to 20m 56s by the time he reached the refuelling point and compulsory 20-minute stop at 201km. Powell and Al-Herais held second and third positions, but the UAE's David Mabbs stopped short of the refuelling point with mechanical problems after holding a place in the top six early on.

Al-Rajhi maintained his break-neck pace through the third checkpoint to extend his virtual stage lead to over 25 minutes at the stage finish to cap a superb performance. Powell and Al-Herais kept their cool to reach the finish in second and third overall.

Tomorrow (Thursday), teams will tackle the final 187.7 competitive kilometres of the Saudi Ha'il Baja. The day's timetable begins with a 50.39km liaison section to the start of the selective section, which heads out on winding sandy tracks into a series of medium dunes. Stony terrain and several wadis will be prevalent later in the stage, before teams are faced with a series of high dunes, which descend on to a fast gravel track to the finish. A final 117.50km liaison guides crews to the ceremonial finish at the Maghwat facility at 17.35hrs.

Positions after leg 2:
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Nissan Navara   4h 32m 24.6s
2. Mark Powell (GB)/Paul Richards (GB) Honda Buggy   4h 58m 18.9s
3. Miroslav Zapletal (CZ)/Tomas Ourednicek (CZ) Mitsubishi Pajero  5h 14m 27.7s
4. Rajeh Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Nawaf Al-Shammeri (KSA) Toyota Land Cruiser 5h 18m 50.4s
5. Safeh Al-Saedi (KSA)/Mishaal Al-Saedi (KSA) Nissan Patrol   5h 20m 28.9s
6. Sami Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Abdullah Al-Shammeri (KSA) Toyota Land Cruiser  5h 25m 11.0s
7. Ahmed Al-Sheqawi (KSA)/Suhail Al-Ali (UAE) Nissan Patrol   5h 42m 50.1s
8. Ali-Al Shawi (UAE)/Ahmed Malik (UAE) Mitsubishi Pajero   5h 43m 04.6s
9. Moteer Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Moteeb Al-Shammeri (KSA) Toyota Land Cruiser 5h 44m 55.7s
10. Hamed bin Eid Al-Thani (QA)/George Sarayan (AUS) Nissan Patrol  5h 46m 31.5s


Live positions available at:
Live tracking available at:
Overall results available at:
For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2009 Ha'il Saudi Baja International Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Maghwat Conference Centre, Ha'il, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Tel: + 966 6 5439920, UK Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com. www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases).

Date issued: 28/01/2009

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