CC Yazeed Al-Rajhi fends off fierce challenge to maintain Ha'il Baja lead
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
Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
AL-RAJHI AND BAUMEL EXTEND OVERALL SAUDI
ARABIAN HA’IL BAJA LEAD AFTER STAGE TWO
· Abdullah Bakhashab maintains second after superb performance
· Third overall for UAE’s Raed Baker; Qatar’s Sheikh Hamed in fourth
· Al-Ghamdi, Mabbs, Al-Saleh and Barker hit technical problems
HA’IL (Saudi Arabia): Saudi Arabian driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi and French navigator Matthieu Baumel extended their overall lead in the Saudi Arabian Ha’il Baja to 6m 34.3s after the second 304.5km selective section through the remote An-Nafud desert in the north-central region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
The Mitsubishi Lancer crew were pushed hard through the opening kilometres of the demanding selective section by an in-form Abdullah Bakhashab and his Lebanese co-driver Joseph Matar, but the Toyota crew fell back over the later faster kilometres but maintained a comfortable second overall.
“It was a superb and really enjoyable stage,” said Al-Rajhi. “But we had a puncture and lost some time changing the wheel. Still, we are in a good position for the final stage.”
“I had a good strategy for the first part of the stage and it was going very well,” said Bakhashab. “But we lost a lot of time over the faster terrain in the second part and that was disappointing.”
The UAE’s Raed Baker and Nabil Ahmadi finished the section in a solid third overall in their Mitsubishi L200 to maintain the final podium position. Qatar’s Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani and his Dubai-based co-driver Yousef Mohammed were fourth. The Emirati duo of Abdullah Al-Herais and Yayha Al-Helai held sixth and eighth in a pair of T2 Nissan Patrols and were sandwiched between fifth-placed Saudi driver Mtair Al-Shammeri and local rival Sami Al-Shammeri in seventh.
Eight cars were entered in the Ha’il National Rally that was running behind the international field. Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Nashmi (Nissan) and Ahmed Al-Shagawi (Nissan) were the pacesetters to the refuelling point on Wednesday afternoon.
Al-Helai was awarded a one-minute penalty for jumping the start of the super special stage on Tuesday afternoon and slipped to 25th overall at the restart on Wednesday morning. But one minute was of little consequence once the cars entered the daunting An-Nafud desert and the Emirati was moved up the restart order on safety grounds in any case.
Rally officials warned competitors that the opening kilometres would be very difficult, the route offering narrow and twisty undulating tracks between sand dunes. The dunes then gave way to a series of graded tracks with smooth surfaces to the second checkpoint, where the route headed through a series of stunning dunes.
Predictably, Al-Rajhi and Bakhashab began a fascinating duel for the outright lead, with Al-Thani and Baker giving chase, closely followed by Al-Herais and Al-Helai. Saudi’s Majid Al-Ghamdi was forced to stop his Isuzu D-Max with engine-related problems 30km after the start, reported radiator woes cost David Mabbs considerable time five kilometres from the first safety point at Ghazala and Saleh Al-Saleh was also in the wars. Ian Barker also stopped with technical trouble, as the leaders headed deep into the An-Nafud in bright sunshine and a warming sun.
Bakhashab had carried out a rigorous three-month fitness campaign to get in physical trim for his one-off Ha’il outing and acclimatised to being back in the competitive hot seat with aplomb. He was running ahead of Al-Rajhi as the leading duo reached the second safety point at Radifa.
But the Mitsubishi Lancer driver sneaked in front by the third safety point at Surah, as Baker, Al-Thani, Al-Herais and Al-Helai trailed in their wake. The defending champion continued to pull away from his Toyota rival, but the 1995 regional rally champion closed the gap en route to the refuelling checkpoint at the Al-Ulaim mountain after 200km and moved just in front as the pair neared the refuelling point.
But the game of cat and mouse intensified and Al-Rajhi again hit the front before the Al-Ulaim mountain, only for Bakhashab again to force his way into the virtual stage lead. The pair continued to edge away from the remainder of the field, although Baker and Al-Thani remained the closest challengers and Al-Herais and Al-Helai stayed in touch on the run in a south-easterly direction towards the fifth checkpoint at Al-Ghudhat.
Al-Rajhi began to pull away from Bakhashab as the duo neared Al-Ghudhat, the Saudi benefiting from the higher top speed of his Mitsubishi Lancer over the faster and more defined tracks. The Saudi punctured and had trouble changing the wheel, but still managed to maintain his first position on the road and extend his overall advantage.
This year’s Saudi Arabian Ha’il Baja is running 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.
Tomorrow (Thursday) crews tackle the 187.7km third selective section through the An-Nafud desert from 09.00hrs. The day starts with a 55km road liaison to the start of the stage and an 118.90km transfer returns teams to Maghwat to prepare for the ceremonial finish from 17.10hrs.
Positions on SS2 (304.5km) (unofficial @ 14.30hrs):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Mitsubishi Lancer 4h 36m 10s
2. Abdullah Bakhashab (KSA)/Joseph Matar (RL) Toyota FJ Cruiser Proto 4h 42m 43s
3. Raed Baker (UAE)/Nabil Almadi (UAE) Mitsubishi L200 5h 03m 22s
4. Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani (QA)/Yousef Mohammed (UAE) Nissan Patrol 5h 16m 33s
5. Mtair Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Moteb Al-Shammeri (KSA) Toyota Land Cruiser 5h 21m 21s
6. Abdullah Al-Herais (UAE)/Abdulhaleem Bin Zayed (UAE) Nissan Patrol (T2) 5h 24m 52s
7. Sami Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Abdullah Al-Shammeri (KSA) Isuzu D-Max (T2) 5h 27m 31s
8. Yayha Al-Helai (UAE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE) Nissan Patrol (T2) 5h 30m 06s, etc
(T1 unless stated)
Overall positions after SS2:
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Mitsubishi Lancer 4h 41m 06.3s
2. Abdullah Bakhashab (KSA)/Joseph Matar (RL) Toyota FJ Cruiser Proto 4h 47m 40.6s
3. Raed Baker (UAE)/Nabil Almadi (UAE) Mitsubishi L200 5h 08m 40.0s
4. Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani (QA)/Yousef Mohammed (UAE) Nissan Patrol 5h 21m 59.0s
5. Mtair Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Moteb Al-Shammeri (KSA) Toyota Land Cruiser 5h 27m 19.9s
6. Abdullah Al-Herais (UAE)/Abdulhaleem Bin Zayed (UAE) Nissan Patrol (T2) 5h 30m 20.7s
7. Sami Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Abdullah Al-Shammeri (KSA) Isuzu D-Max (T2) 5h 33m 10.3s
8. Yayha Al-Helai (UAE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE) Nissan Patrol (T2) 5h 36m 33.7s, etc
(T1 unless stated)
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: email@example.com. www.ndp-publicity.com.
Arabic: Firas Nimri, National Press Officer, Mobile: + 9662 777 282000, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org