CC Qatari and UAE drivers bolster bumper Saudi Hail Baja entry

SAUDI ARABIA HAIL BAJA  (Hail Rally 2008…The Great Nufud Challenge), February 11th-14th, 2008
2008 FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, round 1 of 6

For immediate release
Tuesday, January 29th, 2008




UAE’s Al-Helai, Al-Herais and Al-Ketbi set for Hail desert rally showdown

Team Saluki enters UAE-based Mark Powell in Saudi Arabian event

RIYADH (Saudi Arabia): Qatar’s Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani, the 1993 FIA Middle East rally champion, is set to take part in the Saudi Arabian Hail Baja, which takes place 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, on February 11th-14th.


Doha-based Al-Thani and co-driver George Sarayan will take part in the three-day event in a powerful Nissan Patrol, as the Qatari prepares for an attempt at this season’s FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. Sheikh Hamed is also tackling the UAE national rally series again this season and is looking at taking part in other select events. In 2006 he took part in several rounds of the FIA Baja Cup, including a superb third overall in the Baja GB through the Welsh forests.


“I really enjoy taking part in long-distance desert rallies,” said Al-Thani, who was a spectator at the Qatar International Rally last weekend. “I would like to take part in the World Cup this time and the Saudi event should be a great start to the season for my team. The Nissan is strong and powerful and should be an ideal car for the conditions we will face in Saudi Arabia.”


Temperatures have dropped below zero at night in the Hail region in recent days, but that has not deterred several UAE-based teams from entering Saudi Arabia’s biggest ever motorsport event, which looks set to attract 50 teams when entries close later today (Tuesday).


Leading the way is Yayha Al-Helai - the UAE star of recent UAE Desert Challenges in his Liberty Chevrolet Pick-Up. Al-Helai has competed against the leading factory teams on several occasions and teams up with co-driver Khaled Al-Kendi in Saudi Arabia.


Abdullah Al-Herais took part in the event last year and returns in 2008 with co-driver Abdulrahman Bin Zayed. Al-Herais is a regular on the UAE rallying scene and is confident that he can reach the top five in Hail. Abdullah Al-Ketbi and Saeed Al-Ketbi and their respective co-drivers Ahmed Malik and Suhail Al-Ali will also represent the UAE.


Dubai’s Team Saluki has entered the UAE-based Briton Mark Powell in a Castrol EDGE-supported Buggy in which he won his class in the UAE Desert Challenge last year. Powell has taken part in the final round of the FIA World Cup on a number of occasions and taken several top 10 results in a powerful V8-engined Land Rover Defender.


The switch to a two-wheel drive Buggy has given the Briton the opportunity to benefit from a lighter and more agile chassis for the Saudi Arabian dunes, where he teams up with Lebanese co-driver Mario Mitri for the first time. The team has attracted further support from Serck, GAC and Trading Enterprises.


"Saudi Arabia has tremendous potential for cross country rallying with its wide open spaces and tremendous landscape,” enthused Powell. It is a country that is just waiting to put on a rally which equals any other 

international event. The support from the organisers for our entry has been second to none and we're looking forward to two fantastic days in the sands of the Kingdom. The only drawback we may experience is the unseasonal cold snap that they are experiencing - we can't find thermal underwear in Dubai!"


A fifth UAE entry has been placed for Matar Al-Mansouri and Arif Bin Mohammed, while Lebanese drivers Fady Melki and Emil Khneisser and co-drivers Richard Houne and Mohab Mahrous are also heading for the Prince Sultan Center in Hail next month. Top Lebanese co-driver Joseph Mattar will co-drive for Majed Ghamdi, while the non-GCC entry is boosted by the German pairing of Wolfgang Wels and Carsten Sodemann.


The ceremonial takes place at the Prince Sultan Center in Hail on Tuesday, February 12th at 2pm, before teams tackle a timed super special stage at 15.30hrs. The first desert leg will take place on Wednesday, February 13th, while the second and final leg of the 2008 Hail Baja will start at 09.00hrs on Thursday, February 14th and reach a conclusion at 15.30hrs.
Further information about the event is available from the Saudi Motor Sport Committee, PO Box 87881, Riyadh 11652, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Tel: + 9661 477 1034, Fax: + 9661 477 1050 and from Rami Atwa, E-mail: ram_atwa@yahoo.com, www.saudimotorsport.com


For further media information:

Neil Perkins, 2008 Hail Saudi Baja International Press Officer, NDP Publicity Services, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com. www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases).



Date issued: 29/01/2008

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