CC UAE driver Ali Matar Al Ketbi leads after opening desert section in Hail Saudi Baja

HAIL SAUDI BAJA (Hail Rally 2007…The Great Nufud Challenge)
2007 FIA International Cup for Bajas, official candidate event

For immediate release
Saturday, February 10th, 2007


• UAE’s Al-Herais and Saudi’s Rajeh Al-Shammeri hold second and third positions
• Clutch drama for Saudi front-runner Prince Khaled Bin Sultan near stage finish
• UAE’s Raed Baker suffers clutch failure on start line of selective section
• Navigational delays cost Saudi’s Abdullah Al-Marri his place in event

HAIL (Saudi Arabia): The UAE’s Ali Matar Al-Ketbi and Ali Mirza Shahin were the unofficial leaders of the Hail Saudi Baja after setting the fastest time in Saturday’s punishing 261.35km selective section to the north of Hail city in north-central Saudi Arabia.

The UAE’s Abdullah Al-Herais and Ali Hassan Obaid completed the section in second place at the wheel of a Nissan Patrol, while Rajeh Al-Shammeri and Mubarak Al-Shammeri led numerous members of the Al-Shammeri family in third overall in a Toyota Landcruiser.

Saturday’s competitive action formed a 261.35km loop in the Nufud desert to the north of Jubbah and Hail, and offered a wide variety of sandy tracks and dramatic undulating terrain. Twenty-nine of the 30 teams resumed this morning: Saudi Arabia’s Mohana Al-Saadi was refused a start by event officials on an eligibility and safety issue.

The UAE’s Ahmed Bin Soughat was the first drivers into the special, but it was clearly not an advantage to lead the way and Saudi Arabia’s Salman Al-Shammeri was comfortably the fastest through the opening Bir Al Radefah passage control at the 50.82km point in a Toyota.

Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Al Rmal suffered terminal clutch problems in his Nissan Patrol. Ahmad Al-Sheqawi lost over an hour in the sand in his Mitsubishi and the hotly-tipped UAE driver Raed Baker endured clutch maladies and his challenge for victory in a Range Rover ended on the end of a tow rope.

“There was a lot of soft sand at the stage start and we were running15th on the road for some reason,” groaned Baker. “We went to pull away and we got stuck in the sand and that was the end of the clutch. It is very disappointing to come this far and retire like that.”

By the second passage control Sami Talab Al-Shammeri’s Toyota had edged into the lead, followed closely by Prince Khaled Bin Sultan’s class-leading T2 Mitsubishi Pajero and Abdullah Al-Herais in a Nissan Patrol. Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Al-Marri suffered time penalties and eventually succumbed to serious navigational problems after his Omani co-driver struggled with the GPS system.

At Taas Zbeden (PC3 at 104.96km), Mufadi Al-Shammeri edged into the overall lead in his Toyota, the Saudi driver running two minutes ahead of the UAE’s Abdullah Al-Herais, with Khaled Bin Sultan and Bin Soughat in close contention. The UAE’s Ali Matar Al-Kitbi was fifth in a Nissan Patrol.

Salman Al-Shammeri resumed his role at the front of the field by the mandatory 30-minute refuelling stop at 154.50km, with Bin Soughat, Al-Kitbi and Khaled Bin Sultan hot on his heels. As the route headed in a south-easterly direction towards Al Ghadah, Khaled Bin Sultan held the unofficial lead on paper, from Al-Kitbi, but the UAE driver eventually set the fastest time of the day, finishing the gruelling section in 4h 52m 10s.

Khaled Bin Sultan found himself planted in soft sand with a broken clutch a mere 100 metres from the stage finish. “It is so frustrating to have driven so well and be this close to the end before we got stuck,” said the dejected Saudi, who had suffered fuel problems earlier on.

The event is being held under the patronage of HRH Prince Saud Bin Abdul Mohsen Bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Hail, President of the Supreme Commission for Hail Development and the Head of the Supreme Commission of the Hail Rally, with the full support of the General Headquarters for Youth Welfare and the Higher Association for Tourism.

Crucial sponsorship for Saudi Arabia’s premier Baja comes from a myriad of sponsors, including Toyota, the Ahli Commercial Bank, Saudi Airways, Bison energy drink, Almarai, the Saudi Basic Industries Company (SABIC), Iqtisadiah newspapers, Al-Jawal, Al-Rasheed Engineering, MBC, Sabic, Saudi Aramco, NCB, Safra Power, Yamama Cement and Saudi Oger,

Tomorrow (Sunday) marks the third and final leg of the 2007 Hail Saudi Baja and teams will tackle a 198.60km selective section to the north and west of Hail. The section begins at 09.50hrs and features four passage controls and a refuelling point at Mohafar.

From the start to PC1 the track follows a hard sandy surface with many hidden crests and undulating trails. After 75km the terrain is much faster and joins a wide road towards the old Baaja well and PC2. The section between the second and third passage controls contains numerous tricky sand dunes and deceptive crests are common for many kilometres to PC3.

After refuelling at 138.33km, there are several kilometres of rough sand tracks towards a large wadi and the final passage control has been placed at the end of the wadi. Sand hills, crests, deceptive drops and several wadis are prevalent to the 182.42km point and a fast track takes crews on to the finish.

Positions on leg 2 (261.35 km): unofficial @ 14.30 hrs
1. Ali Matar Al-Ketbi (UAE)/Ali Mirza Shahin (UAE) Nissan Patrol 4h 52m 10s
2. Abdullah Al-Herais (UAE)/Ali Hassan Obaid (UAE) Nissan Patrol 4h 59m 07s
3. Rajeh Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Mubarak Al-Shammeri (KSA) Toyota Landcruiser 4h 59m 38s
4. Khalaf Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Kheer Allah Al-Shammeri (KSA) Toyota Landcruiser 5h 06m 33s
5. Ahmed Bin Soughat (UAE)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Nissan Patrol 5h 19m 18s, etc

Overall classification after leg 2: unofficial @ 14.30 hrs
1. Ali Matar Al-Ketbi (UAE)/Ali Mirza Shahin (UAE) Nissan Patrol 4h 57m 25s
2. Abdullah Al-Herais (UAE)/Ali Hassan Obaid (UAE) Nissan Patrol 5h 04m 29s
3. Rajeh Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Mubarak Al-Shammeri (KSA) Toyota Landcruser 5h 05m 04s
4. Khalaf Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Kheer Allah Al-Shammeri (KSA) Toyota Landcruiser 5h 11m 20s
5. Ahmed Bin Soughat (UAE)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Nissan Patrol 5h 22m 57s
6. Ali Al-Shawi (UAE)/Abdullah Abdulhaleem Zayed (UAE) Nissan Patrol 5h 34m 21s, etc


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2007 Hail Saudi Baja International Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Hail Saudi Media Centre, Maghwat, Hail, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Saudi Mobile: + 966 (0) 55 3583667, E-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com. www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases).


Date issued: 10/02/2007

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