MERC Yazeed Al Rajhi claims Syrian International Rally victory
2009 Syrian International Rally
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Saturday, June 13th, 2009
SAUDI ARABIA’S YAZEED AL-RAJHI CLINCHES
MAIDEN MIDDLE EAST SERIES WIN IN SYRIA
Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri finishes second and leads MERC
Lebanon’s Georgiou seals Pirelli final place; third for Al-Hajri
SEDNAYA (Syria): Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel secured their first win in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship in the Syrian International Rally, which finished in Sednaya on Saturday.
The pair had already won the Ha’il Saudi Baja earlier this season and the Sharqia candidate event last November, but a comfortable victory on the 13-special stage Syrian event lifted Al-Rajhi to within two points of Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah in the Drivers’ Championship with four rounds remaining. The success was the first for an S2000 car in the Middle East and the first for a Saudi driver since Abdullah Bakhashab won the Rally of Lebanon in 1996.
Al-Rajhi survived niggling problems during the first leg to coax his Peugeot 207 S2000 to the finish, 3m 58.4s in front of runners-up, Misfer Al-Marri and Chris Patterson. Al-Marri had the consolation of moving into the outright lead of the regional series by a single point from Al-Attiyah.
Lebanon’s Nick Georgiou and Joseph Matar qualified for the Pirelli ‘Star Driver’ final in Dubai in December, despite last stage delays that cost the crew second overall. They finished fourth.
“This is an important step in my career,” said a delighted Al-Rajhi. “This is my first championship rally win and it is a special feeling. Now I have a good chance to take this further and push on for the title. The next round in Lebanon will be so important and I will need to score as many points as possible.”
Al-Marri and Ulster co-driver Patterson were the form team during the second leg and eventually finished second overall after passing local front-runner Haitham Al-Yousefi on the first stage of the day and Qatar’s Mubarak Al-Hajri on the final stage.
“The damage was done with the power steering problems on Friday,” admitted Al-Marri. “Today was a rescue exercise to try and redeem as many points as possible and keep the championship push alive.”
Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi’s overheating problems had caused reported head gasket problems and terminal engine damage on Friday and the former regional Group N champion was unable to restart under SupeRally conditions. Three cars did use the SupeRally ruling to join the surviving 14 entrants from day one to tackle the eighth stage. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari was also a non-starter with drive shaft problems and Ahmad Hamsho was forced to withdraw from the event with mechanical problems before the first stage of the day.
Al-Marri had planned the grand attack in a bid to snatch fourth place and the Qatari disposed of Al-Yousefi with the fastest time in the 18.8k Deir Atiyah stage. Al-Hajri was second quickest and the result lifted the Qatari to within 67 seconds of Al-Rajhi. But the Saudi hit back in SS9 and romped back into a 1m 52s lead as delays for Al-Hajri pushed him into the clutches of a hard-charging Georgiou. The pair were separated by just 4.9 seconds heading into the 10th stage, near An Nabek. Engine problems accounted for Qatar’s Jaber Al-Marri and Kuwait’s Essam Al-Nejadi and Jordan’s Faris Hijazi retired with a broken differential at the end of SS9.
Al-Rajhi was on a charge again through SS10 and reached the Deir Atiyah service point with a 2m 23.6s advantage over Georgiou, who had moved ahead of the slowing Al-Hajri after the stage. Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thafiri lost over seven minutes and plummeted out of the top 10. Al-Hajri dropped still further behind Georgiou when an erroneous stage time from leg one was corrected, although the Qatari maintained third position.
Al-Marri beat Al-Hajri by six seconds in SS11 and closed to within 36 seconds of third place, as the leading duo stayed clear of trouble heading into the penultimate stage. The stage was set for a fascinating showdown between the two Qatari drivers for third place, with Al-Marri needing to claw back just under one second per kilometre in the remaining two stages to snatch a vital extra championship point.
He clawed back 22 seconds in the penultimate stage and headed into the final 25km needing to overturn a deficit of 13.7 seconds. He managed to take the championship lead and second place with a sterling fight-back, but Georgiou almost threw away a finish on the final stage in a carbon copy of the woes he suffered in Qatar back in January. He lost three minutes and slipped to fourth overall.
This year’s rally was held 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 SS13 (unofficial @ 14.55hrs):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Peugeot 207 S2000 2h 39m 54.7s
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza 2h 43m 53.1s
3. Mubarak Al-Hajri (QA)/Adel Hussein (QA) Subaru Impreza 2h 44m 21.6s
4. Nick Georgiou (RL)/Joseph Matar (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 2h 45m 45.2s
5. Haitham Al-Yousefi (SYR)/Yousef Al-Asmar (HKJ) Subaru Impreza 2h 47m 25.5s
6. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ahmed Ghaziri (RL) Subaru Impreza 2h 48m 02.4s
7. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QA)/Nicky Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza 2h 53m 25.2s
2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship - positions after round 3 of 7 (unofficial):
1. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 21 pts
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 20 pts
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA) 18 pts
4. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 12 pts
5. Mufeed Mubarak (KT) 7 pts
5. Mubarak Al-Hajri (QA) 7 pts
7. Nick Georgiou (RL) 5 pts, etc
1. Chris Patterson (GB) 24 pts
2. Matthieu Baumel (F) 20 pts
3. Michael Orr (GB) 16 pts
4. Ahmad Al-Khrass (KT) 9 pts
5. Adel Hussein (QA) 6 pts
6. Joseph Matar (RL) 5 pts
6. Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE) 5 pts
8. Steve Lancaster (GB) 4 pts, etc
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