MERC Al-Rajhi and Baumel extend Sharqia Rally lead after day one
Sharqia Rally 2010
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 4 of 8
For immediate release
Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
SAUDI ARABIA’S YAZEED AL-RAJHI EXTENDS HIS
OVERALL LEAD AFTER DAY ONE OF SHARQIA RALLY
· Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri snatches second overall; gearbox woe for Al-Thani
· Overheating and windscreen problems haunt UAE’s Khalid Al-Qassimi
HALF MOON BAY (Saudi Arabia): Saudi Arabian driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel extended their overall lead to 53.9 seconds, after a further six timed special stages of the Sharqia Rally, round four of the 2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), on Wednesday.
“It was a case of driving quickly without making mistakes today and I am delighted with the position,” said Al-Rajhi, who is bidding to win his third MERC rally and his second Sharqia title. “We had a puncture in the first stage this morning, but everything else is going well.”
Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri and Italian co-driver Nicola Arena were the Saudi’s closest challengers in a Subaru Impreza, once Emirati stage two leaders, Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Wael Marjan, had lost three minutes dealing with overheating issues and a loose bonnet that damaged their Ford Fiesta S2000’s windscreen.
Al-Qassimi held a provisional fourth place behind Qatar’s Jaber Al-Marri before final day one tracking checks were carried out back at rally headquarters. Saudi drivers Abduali Saleh and Saeed Al-Mouri held excellent fifth and sixth places.
Twenty-two of the original 23 starters (Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Sabti was a non-starter) tackled the 35.6km of the second Azabnah stage and Al-Qassimi surged into the outright lead by 26.2s. The Emirati had laid down the gauntlet and left overnight leader Al-Rajhi - who confirmed that this is his last MERC event before he begins a programme of WRC and IRC events - and Misfer Al-Marri trailing in his wake.
Saudi’s Ahmed Al-Sabban stopped for several minutes in the stage, Qatar’s Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani suffered gearbox woes and lost over four minutes and Jaber Al-Marri reportedly missed a vital junction on the route. Youngster Abduali Saleh held a fine seventh in the ex-Yazeed Al-Rajhi Subaru, the Saudi benefiting from Al-Rajhi’s support for his entry into rallying to set the sixth fastest time.
Palestinian driver Rami Jaber Daoud retired with a broken axle, after Khaled Kadoura, the president of the Palestine Motor Sport Federation had stood in for his absent co-driver Fares Alouh at the 11th hour. Kuwait’s Farouk Ghurab was also sidelined after a Mitsubishi engine fire.
It was critical that Al-Rajhi bounced back in the 12.6km of Al-Ageer. Al-Marri actually beat the Saudi, but Al-Qassimi had suffered overheating woes at the end of the previous stage and had lifted the bonnet to inspect the problem. The UAE crew did not fasten the bonnet properly before restarting and it flew up into their view during the second stage, damaging the windscreen and costing them three minutes. Al-Qassimi plummeted to sixth overall, but his concern was not having a spare windscreen and the possibility of having to use full-face helmets or falling foul of the technical scrutineer.
Al-Rajhi found himself 24.8s in front of Al-Marri, but neither Al-Thani nor fellow Qatari Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari made it through the stage. Al-Kuwari had held fifth place after two stages before engine damage sidelined his Subaru and transmission woes ended Al-Thani’s challenge in his old Subaru. Khaled Al-Suwaidi and young Saleh took up the chase heading to the fourth Al-Jadidah stage.
The drama continued through the fourth stage; Al-Marri set the fastest time and edged a further 5.5s away from Al-Qassimi, as Al-Rajhi’s lead was reduced to 23.6s. Jaber Al-Marri was running under the threat of time penalties from his infringement on an earlier stage and he, Al-Suwaidi and Saleh held third, fourth and fifth positions.
Mubarak Al-Hajri retired in the fourth stage with engine overheating and only 16 cars tackled the re-run of the Azabnah special. Al-Qassimi regained 31 seconds by setting the fastest time, but Al-Rajhi extended his overall lead to 55.2s over Misfer Al-Marri.
The Qatari hit back with the fastest time in SS6 and reduced the Saudi’s lead to 50.4s, as the pair remained well clear of Jaber Al-Marri, who was running in third position despite the threat of penalties. Kuwait’s Dawood Al-Ghrabally retired with a broken engine and Al-Suwaidi was also sidelined with a broken rear suspension arm.
Al-Rajhi was again quickest in the seventh and last stage of the leg to take a 53.9s lead into the final day. Misfer Al-Marri held on to seal second overall, Jaber Al-Marri retained third and Al-Qassimi passed Saleh to snatch fourth place. Thirteen crews reached the end of the leg.
Tomorrow (Thursday) crews will tackle the remaining six special stages of Saudi Arabia’s first ever round of the regional rally series, which is being held under the patronage of HRH Prince Mohamed bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Governor of the Eastern Province and the Chairman of the Higher Committee for the Sharqia Rally.
Two runs through the Al-Maakusa, A’Dannan and Dhallum special stages are on the agenda, split by a service and regroup at the King Fahd sports city complex in Half Moon Bay. Action gets underway at 10.23hrs (local time) and the 13th and final stage is due to fire into life from 13.53hrs.
2010 Sharqia Rally – positions after SS7 (*unofficial @ 15.20hrs):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Peugeot 207 S2000 1h 02m 54.4s
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Nicola Arena (I) Subaru Impreza 1h 03m 48.3s
3. Jaber Al-Marri (QA)/Kamal Khoder (QA) Subaru Impreza 1h 05m 05.4s
4. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Ford Fiesta S2000 1h 05m 30.6s
5. Abdulali Saleh (KSA)/Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) Subaru Impreza 1h 08m 33.2s
6. Saeed Al-Mouri (KSA)/Ali Al-Saiyari (KSA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 1h 09m 02.5s
7. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT)/Faris Al-Thafiri (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 1h 09m 22.2s
8. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT)/Anwar Al-Sharrah (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X 1h 11m 36.0s
9. Mohammed Al-Marri (QA)/Basil Ghazzawi (CAN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 1h 13m 13.3s
10. Abdullah Al-Hajri (KT)/Nawaf Al-Safi (KT) Subaru Impreza 1h 20m 34.1s
* subject to end of day time penalties
For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2010 Sharqia Rally International Press Liaison, NDP Publicity Services, Tel: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. www.ndp-publicity.com.
Arabic: Firas Nimri, Arabic Press Liaison, Mobile: + 962 777 282000, E-mail: email@example.com
http://www.sharqiarally.com/ and www.merc-fia.com
For latest results go to: http://rally.ficr.it or http://timing.sporttraxx.com/races/sharqia-2010/