MERC Yazeed Al Rajhi wins Kuwait International Rally
KUWAIT INTERNATIONAL RALLY, February 28th-March 1st 2008
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, official candidate event
For immediate release
Saturday, March 1st, 2008
SAUDI ARABIA’S YAZEED AL-RAJHI TAKES
VICTORY IN KUWAIT’S RALLYING RETURN
Second place for Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri
Engine failure robs Sheikh Suhail of Kuwait victory
KUWAIT CITY (Kuwait): Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and British co-driver Steve Lancaster clinched victory in an action-packed 2008 Kuwait International Rally, which was organised by the Kuwait Motor Sports Club and was an official candidate event for inclusion in the 2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship.
The lead swapped and changed throughout the two days and Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, partnered by co-driver Wael Marjan, returned to the driver’s seat for the first time in over a year and a half and looked set to clinch a straightforward win until engine problems forced him out on the final desert stage. Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri and Yousef Al-Asmar eventually finished second overall in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
There were cases of accidental short-cutting and time penalties were imposed on several drivers, including Al-Rajhi and Al-Marri. Both Al-Rajhi and his Qatari rival incurred 10 minutes of penalties, but the Saudi held on to take the win.
The first international rally to be run in Kuwait for 13 years attracted entrants from seven countries, but a fascinating final day tussle developed between Sheikh Suhail and Al-Rajhi. There were a couple of changes to the overnight results when time penalties and time card corrections were established and imposed by rally officials.
Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum actually began the final day with a two-second lead over Al-Rajhi – initial results had Al-Rajhi ahead by five seconds - and Al-Marri was handed third place, from David Scialom, Eid Falah, Saleh Bin Eidan, Khalid Al-Suwaidi and Mohammed Al-Marri. Bin Eidan dropped eight minutes on the final stage of the leg.
Michel Saleh was unable to repair his Subaru’s engine and eight cars started the final seven special stages on Saturday, which consisted of three desert tests repeated twice and a second run through the 3.5km super special stage that had been used on Thursday evening.
Initially it looked as though Al-Rajhi had moved back into the overall lead by setting the pace through the opening 14.07km of the Sulibikhat special, but the Saudi driver was deemed to have taken a short cut and was immediately penalised by 10 minutes, as Al-Marri and Al-Maktoum set the fastest times. The Saudi was legitimately on the pace in the Al Metlaa stage, but the unofficial results showed him to be 6m 47s behind Sheikh Suhail once the penalties had been imposed. Misfer Al-Marri was third and Scialom and Eid Faleh completed the top five, although the Qatari was also given a 10-minute penalty for taking an alleged shortcut.
Kuwait’s Saleh Bin Eidan fell by the wayside and was joined by Qatar’s Mohammed Al-Marri, who retired with mechanical problems in the 10th stage. Al-Rajhi was comfortably quickest again in this test and reduced Sheikh Suhail’s unofficial lead to 6m 33s, as the six surviving cars headed into service.
But drama unfolded after service when Al-Maktoum was forced out with engine problems and the heavily-penalised Misfer Al-Marri found himself in the outright lead. “These long straights are killers for our engines,” admitted Sheikh Suhail. Al-Maktoum had been fastest in the Sulibikhat stage to extend his overall lead to 7m 06s and Al-Rajhi had beaten him by 14 seconds in the second run through Al Metlaa, but the engine cried enough in Al Atraff where Al-Marri set the fastest time of the five surviving cars.
Al-Rajhi headed into the final timed super special stage with a 5m 27s overall lead and there were no major dramas, as the Saudi clinched the biggest win of his career.
“I would like to thank everyone who made our return to the international rallying scene possible,” said Sheikh Ahmad Al-Dawood Al-Sabah, President of the Kuwait Motor Sports Club (KMSC). “It is now in the hands of the FIA whether we are granted a place in the calendar next season, but our club is delighted to have run this event and put Kuwait back on the international motor sporting calendar.”
The candidate event for inclusion in the 2009 FIA Middle East Rally Championship was 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.
Positions at end of leg 2 (unofficial @ 16.40hrs):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX 2h 28m 50s
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Yousef Al-Asmar (UAE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII 2h 34m 20s
3. David Scialom (GB)/Thomas Matthias (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX 2h 39m 39s
4. Eid Falah (KT)/Khalid Khalifa (KT) Subaru Impreza WRX N10 2h 40m 56s
5. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QA)/Rashid Al-Sulaiti (QA) Subaru Impreza WRX 2h 55m 45s
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)