MERC Saudi Arabian Yazeed Al Rajhi leads in Kuwait
KUWAIT INTERNATIONAL RALLY, February 28th-March 1st 2008
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, official candidate event
For immediate release
Friday, February 29th, 2008
SAUDI’S YAZEED AL-RAJHI LEADS
IN KUWAIT AT END OF LEG ONE
Second place for UAE’s Sheikh Suhail; Kuwait’s Bin Eidan in third overall
Overheating woes for Lebanon’s Saleh; Qatar’s Khalifa Saleh rolls out of contention
KUWAIT CITY (Kuwait): Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and British co-driver Steve Lancaster were the overall leaders of the 2008 Kuwait International Rally, after the remaining six special stages of the opening leg in Kuwait on Friday afternoon.
They had been involved in a frantic tussle through the Kuwaiti deserts with Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum and Wael Marjan and a mere five seconds separated the pair at the end of the opening leg. Kuwait’s Saleh Bin Eidan and Abdel Aziz Abdul held third position and Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri and Yousef Al-Asmar were fourth in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
“I had a problem with my gearbox and my team changed it after the super special stage on Thursday night,” said overnight leader Al-Rajhi. “That’s why I got the 20-second penalty last night. Today things went much better and I drove flat out all the time. I enjoyed the roads and the terrain today and will try my best to keep Suhail at bay and maintain my lead to the finish.”
Sheikh Suhail was a little frustrated to be second: “My car lacks top speed and this rally requires a high-speed performance engine. Everything else is fine, but I have been out of a rally car for more than a year and a half and it takes time to get into it again.”
Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum and Saleh Bin Eidan had held a joint lead after the opening super special stage on Thursday evening, but it soon became apparent that the battle for outright victory was going to be fought out between Al-Maktoum, Bin Eidan and Al-Marri. The Kuwaiti edged into a one-second overall lead in the Al-Salmi stage, with Al-Maktoum and Al-Marri in close contention.
Saudi Arabia’s Al-Rajhi arrived two minutes late into the service park on Thursday night and was awarded a 20-second time penalty, which pushed him down to ninth overall at the start of the second day. He and British co-driver Steve Lancaster set the fourth fastest time in SS2.
Michel Saleh suffered terminal engine overheating problems with his new Subaru Impreza N14 in the second Al-Salmi stage and Khalifa Al-Attiyah rolled out of contention on the third Al Atraff test. Al-Rajhi won the third special, but Al-Maktoum moved into the overall lead by a mere second but Bin Eidan and Al-Rajhi were in close pursuit.
The Saudi again won the fourth stage by 10 seconds, but Sheikh Suhail maintained a one-second advantage. The Kuwait Rally was developing into one of the closest on record and the UAE driver extended his overall lead to three seconds by winning the second run through the Al-Salmi stage.
Bin Eidan, Al-Marri and Britain’s David Scialom held third, fourth and fifth places, while Kuwait’s Eid Falah, Qatar’s Khalid Al-Suwaidi and Qatar’s Mohammed Al-Marri rounded off the surviving eight-car field.
Al-Rajhi and Al-Maktoum tied through the second Al Atraff special and the pair headed into the final 11km special of the day separated by a mere three seconds. Al-Rajhi managed to win the stage and edge into his five-second lead.
The candidate event for inclusion in the 2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship is being organised by the Kuwait Motor Sports Club (KMSC) under the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the Prime Minister of the State of Kuwait.
Tomorrow (Saturday) is the final leg of the event and the timetable features six desert specials and a repeat of Thursday’s super special. The 14.07km Sulaibikhat stage gets the action underway at 09.34hrs and this will be followed by the Al Metlaa and revised Al Atraff stages. Following service and a regrouping the three stages will be repeated on Saturday afternoon and the super special brings the competitive action to a close at 4pm. The podium and ceremonial finish is scheduled for 5pm.
Positions at end of leg 1:
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX 1h 01m 39s
2. Suhail Bin Khalifa (UAE)/Wael Marjan (UAE) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1h 01m 44s
3. Saleh Bin Eidan (KT)/Abdel Aziz Abdul (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 1h 03m 02s
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Yousef Al-Asmar (UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 1h 03m 19s
5. David Scialom (GB)/Thomas Matthias (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX 1h 08m 58s
6. Eid Falah (KT)/Khalid Khalifa (KT) Subaru Impreza WRX N10 1h 09m 44s
7. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Subaru Impreza WRX 1h 33m 31s
8. Mohammed Al-Marri (QA)/Ali Al-Marri (QA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 1h 39m 28s
For further media information:
Neil Perkins, International Media Liaison Officer, 2008 Kuwait International Rally, NDP Publicity Services, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com, www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)