CC Saudi Arabian Ha'il Baja gets underway on Tuesday afternoon
SAUDI ARABIAN HA’IL BAJA (Ha’il Rally 2010…The Great Nafud Challenge), February 16th-18th, 2010
2010 FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, round 1
For immediate release
Monday, February 15th, 2010
SAUDI ARABIAN HA’IL BAJA GETS UNDERWAY ON TUESDAY AFTERNOON
· UAE’s Al-Helai and Al-Kendi set to lead crews over Maghwat start ramp
· Saudi’s Al-Rajhi and Bakhashab set for first ever competitive clash
· British driver Ian Barker wheels out revised Corvette V8-engined Nissan Patrol
RIYADH (Saudi Arabia): The experienced UAE off-road driver Yayha Al-Helai and navigator Khalid Al-Kendi will lead a provisional international field of 37 cars across the start podium of the 2010 Saudi Arabian Ha’il Baja at the Maghwat Conference Centre in Ha’il on Tuesday afternoon.
The three-day event in the An-Nafud desert is being organised by the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF) and kick-starts the 2010 FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas 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.
Saudi Arabian rally star Yazeed Al-Rajhi will be hoping to defend the Ha’il Baja title he won at his first attempt with French co-driver Matthieu Baumel in 2009. The Riyadh driver has arranged to drive an ex-factory Mitsubishi Racing Lancer for his second assault at Saudi’s premier off-road event. The petrol-engined Lancer has been prepared by Nicolas Misslin’s JMB Stradale Off Road team and will run under the management of Frenchman Dominique Serieys.
Abdullah Bakhashab returns to competitive action for the first since the 2003 Rally of Lebanon on a one-off drive in a new European-built Toyota FJ Cruiser Proto. The Kingdom’s most successful rally driver has been involved in the event as an organiser and a sponsor in recent years and the new Ha’il Baja challenge marks the first time that the 1995 FIA Middle East rally champion has ever faced Al-Rajhi in active competition.
Pride will be at stake for the Saudi duo, but the event’s record entry has strength in depth. Raed Baker, Ahmed Bin Soughat, Matar Al-Mansoori and Abdullah Al-Herais bolster the UAE contingent and Qatar’s Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani returns to the Kingdom fresh from taking the final podium place in the recent Qatar International Rally. Saudi Arabia’s Saleh Al-Saleh will drive a second Toyota FJ Cruiser as part of Bakhashab’s Toyota Rally Team Saudi Arabia operation.
The UAE-based British trio of Mark Powell, David Mabbs and Ian Barker are relishing their return to Saudi action. Powell achieved a career-best second overall last year with his Honda-engined Buggy and Mabbs will be hoping that his ex-SCORE Toyota FJ Cruiser has reliability this time out after engine problems put him out of the running in 2009.
Dubai-based Barker is one of several drivers from the UAE who reached Ha’il after a tiring 1,800km road trip. Barker was ranked second in the T2 production class last year, but has decided to take part this time in the T1 prototype class with his New Trix Racing Nissan Patrol.
“We have fitted a V8 Corvette engine to the Nissan this time,” enthused Barker. “I also have a new co-driver in Ian Rodgers. We have made a lot of changes, especially to the cooling system, since we retired in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. We hope to be competitive with a reliable car and are looking forward to the rally, because everyone turns out to watch here and the atmosphere is amazing.”
The Bakhashab Isuzu Team will also run a pair of diesel-engined Isuzu D-Max cars for Majid Al-Ghamdi and Sami Al-Shammeri. Al-Ghamdi was one of the original Toyota Junior Team members that Abdullah Bakhashab nurtured to maturity in a Toyota Rav-4 programme held in conjunction with the FIA Middle East Rally Championship several years ago. On this occasion Al-Ghamdi will be accompanied by Italian co-driver Nicola Arena, himself better known for regional rallying exploits with Jordan’s Amjad Farrah and Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri.
Several leading drivers and members of the organising committee attended the official pre-event press conference at the Maghwat Conference Centre on Monday evening.
“It is a great pleasure to welcome all our international visitors and officials to Ha’il once again,” enthused Mishaal Al-Sudairy, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF). “We have a record entry and our team have made several changes and improvements to the route and the format for this year’s event. The Ha’il Baja continues to grow in popularity and we hope it will go from strength to strength in the coming years. We are pleased that the overseas competitors have been attracted by our incentive package, which is the best in the entire region.”
Tomorrow (Tuesday) the event gets underway with the ceremonial start at the Maghwat Conference facility in Ha’il at 3pm and crews then head into the 6.8km super special stage at 3.35pm. Days two and three will take place on desert selective sections in the An-Nafud desert, with the event finishing back at Maghwat from 5.10pm on Thursday afternoon (February 18th).
Top 10 starters:
1. Yayha Al-Helai (UAE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE) Nissan Patrol
2. Abdullah Al-Herais (UAE)/Abdulhaleem Bin Zayed (UAE) Nissan Patrol
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Mitsubishi Lancer
4. Abdullah Bakhashab (KSA)/Joseph Matar (RL) Toyota FJ Cruiser Proto
5. Raed Baker (UAE)/Nabil Almadi (UAE) Mitsubishi L200
6. Shk Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani (QA)/Yousef Mohammed (UAE) Nissan Patrol
7. Mfadi Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Mohamed Al-Shammeri (KSA) Toyota Land Cruiser
8. Majid Al-Ghamdi (KSA)/Nicola Arena (I) Isuzu D-Max
9. Mark Powell (GB)/Paul Richards (GB) Honda Buggy
10. Sami Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Abdullah Al-Shammeri (KSA) Isuzu D-Max
For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2010 Saudi Arabia Ha’il Baja International Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Maghwat Conference Centre, Ha’il, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mobiles: + 966 548 602152 or + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. www.ndp-publicity.com.