MERC Yazeed Al Rajhi holds useful lead in Syria Rally
2009 Syrian International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Friday, June 12th, 2009
SAUDI ARABIA’S YAZEED AL-RAJHI TAKES
LEAD IN SYRIAN INTERNATIONAL RALLY
Qatar’s Al-Hajri and Lebanon’s Georgiou hold second and third places
Early steering woes for Qatar’s Al-Marri; first stage agony for Al-Kuwari
SEDNAYA (Syria): Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel romped into a comfortable 1m 20.9s lead after the opening seven special stages of the 2009 Syrian International Rally, round three of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, on Friday.
Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri and Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson had been fastest on the opening stage, but lost time through the second and third specials with damaged steering. Qatar’s Mubarak Al-Hajri and Lebanon’s Nick Georgiou held the remaining podium places at the overnight halt.
“I have won two candidate rallies before, but I have never won a round of the championship,” said Al-Rajhi. “I made a good start this morning, found a fast pace and made a good lead. Now I have to keep it going for one more day.”
Al-Marri led the 19-strong field into the first Jupiter stage and edged into a 0.8-second lead from Al-Rajhi. Syria’s Haitham Al-Yousefi was third, Georgiou was fourth and Abdullah Al-Qassimi set the sixth fastest time. Ahmad Hamsho opted to run a new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X at the 11th hour and held 11th overall after the opening stage. The ignominy of first retirement fell to Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari: the Qatari suffered mechanical trouble early in the special.
Al-Rajhi was quickest through the 24km of Hafar and opened up an outright lead of 44.7 seconds over Georgiou. Al-Marri lost nearly two minutes running first on the road with damaged steering, while Al-Qassimi climbed to third position with the third fastest time. Qatar’s Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani lost seven minutes and slipped to the rear of the field and Kuwait’s Essam Al-Nejadi rolled out of contention.
Despite clouting a rock and damaging a wheel, Al-Rajhi was again quickest through Baida and extended his advantage to 1m 11.9s over a flying Mubarak Al-Hajri. Al-Qassimi maintained third, but Al-Marri continued to slip out of contention with his ongoing steering woes and dropped a further two and a half minutes to the leader.
Brake maladies meant that Al-Yousefi was unable to pressurise the leaders and mechanical problems accounted for Kuwait’s Meshal Al-Nejadi and Jordan’s Faris Hijazi, although both hoped to re-start on Saturday under the SupeRally ruling.
Georgiou was seven seconds quicker than a rejuvenated Al-Marri through the fourth stage, but third-placed Al-Rajhi extended his overall lead over Al-Hajri to 1m 25.7s. Georgiou climbed to third overall when reported overheating woes and a damaged radiator forced Al-Qassimi to return to service before the stage. Al-Marri duly rose to seventh position.
Al-Hajri set the fastest time in the fifth Hafar stage and reduced Al-Rajhi’s lead to 1m 10.5s, although the Saudi had noticeably eased his pace. Al-Marri managed to beat Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh by 50 seconds and closed in on fifth overall heading into the final two stages of the day.
Georgiou was again quickest in SS6, Al-Marri closed to within 16 seconds of fifth-placed Saleh and Al-Rajhi set the fourth fastest time and saw his overall lead reduced to just under a minute. But the Saudi maintained his outright lead through the last 24.5km stage of the day, near An Nabek, set the fastest time and headed back to Deir Atiyah with a useful lead. Al-Marri managed to squeeze past Saleh into fifth position and had his eye on Al-Yousefi’s fourth place heading into the overnight halt.
After a further six special stages on Saturday, the ceremonial finish is scheduled to start at 16.32hrs in front of the Sheraton Hotel in Sednaya.
This year’s rally is running under the patronage of the Syrian Ministry of Tourism and has support from the Sheraton Ma’aret Sednaya, Orient TV, Runnet, Tafour Gardens, Arabisc Radio, Europcar and Nissan.
2009 Syrian International Rally – positions after SS7 (unofficial @ 15.45hrs):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Peugeot 207 S2000 1h 26m 08.6s
2. Mubarak Al-Hajri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Subaru Impreza 1h 27m 29.5s
3. Nick Georgiou (RL)/Joseph Matar (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 1h 28m 02.1s
4. Haitham Al-Yousefi (SYR)/Yousef Al-Asmar (HKJ) Subaru Impreza 1h 30m 34.2s
5. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza 1h 30m 48.5s
6. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ahmed Ghaziri (RL) Subaru Impreza 1h 31m 25.2s
7. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QA)/Nicky Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza 1h 34m 22.2s
8. Mufeed Mubarak (KWT)/Emad Juma (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X 1h 35m 12.9s
9. Ahmed Al-Sabban (KSA)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Toyota S2000 1h 37m 18.7s
10. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KWT)/Fares Al-Thafiri (KWT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 1h 37m 36.8s
11. Jaber Al-Marri (QA)/Jake Carlin (GB) Subaru Impreza 1h 39m 09.9s
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