Al-Rajhi overcomes delays to maintain lead in Rally Qassim 2019

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BURAIDAH — Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi overcame a navigational delay and a drive shaft failure to maintain his overall lead in the car category at Rally Qassim 2019, the second round of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, on Friday.

The Toyota Hilux driver clocked a time of 1hr 46min 43sec for the Umm Sidrah desert selective section and he and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr reached the night halt in Buraidah with a lead of 3min 23sec over fellow Saudi Yasir Seaidan and his Portuguese co-driver Paulo Fiuza in their X-raid-built MINI All4 Racing.

“I guess it was not really my day,” said Al-Rajhi, who is working with Orr for the second event in the space of a month to enable the Ulsterman to gain more cross-country rallying experience after a career in special stage rallies. “I am happy to be leading the rally after a tough morning. Tomorrow is a different day and hopefully better.”

The two Saudi cross-country rallying heavyweights were the class of a bumper field on the new event being organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal.

Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi began the day in 10th position in his Peugeot 2008, but the Abu Dhabi Racing driver clocked the third quickest time of 1hr 52min 03sec to slot into the final position on the podium with French co-driver Xavier Panseri.

Essa Al-Dossari finished the timed section just under four minutes behind the Emirati in his ED Racing Nissan with French co-driver Sébastien Delaunay to hold fourth overall and Ali Al-Kharraz rounded off the top five in his Hummer.

Czech veteran Miroslav Zapletal lost a little time to the leading group and slipped from fourth to seventh overall in his Ford F-150 Evo, while Emirati Abdullah Al-Heraiz climbed from 15th to eighth in his Nissan. Mubarak Al-Zubaidi retired his Toyota in the stage and Saudi drift champion Saeed Al-Mouri lost a lot of time stuck in a section of treacherous wet sand.

Yousef Al-Suwaidi snatched the advantage in the T2 section for series production cross-country vehicles and held a lead of 29min 25sec over Mutab Al-Shammeri.

Overnight leader Ahmed Al-Shegawi and Russian navigator Alexei Kuzmich suffered serious delays in the stage. “After two kilometers from the start, the car broke,” said Kuzmich. “It’s either electrical or the turbo, but we are out of the rally.”

Sami Al-Gafari had taken a slender T3 lead into the day’s selective section in his Can-Am Maverick X3, but the Saudi dropped over two hours in the desert and also earned a one-hour time penalty that pushed him to the foot of the rankings.

The fastest T3 time on the day fell to Khalil Al-Tuwaijri and the Saudi reached the night halt with a lead of 4min 45sec over fellow Can-Am driver Saleh Al-Saif. Yousef Al-Dhaif held third place.

Fresh from clinching the FIA MERC 3 title with Lebanese driver Henry Kahy, Jordanian navigator Musa Djiyerian teamed up with Saudi driver Faris Al-Shammeri and holds 16th overall after a dramatic day.

“The stage was very difficult, but amazing terrain,” said the Jordanian. “Our engine stopped suddenly near the start. We figured that it was an electrical problem. We stopped for 31 minutes and found we had a burned fuse. We attached the wire directly. Then we had another delay later in the stage after 87km with navigational equipment problems and lost another seven minutes, but we did not miss any waypoints.”

UAE rider Mohammed Al-Balooshi won the motorcycle stage by 4min 17sec on his KTM 450 Rally and extended his overall advantage to 5min 28sec over Saudi rider Mishal Alghuneim once time penalties had been imposed.

Al-Balooshi’s fellow Emirati Abdulla Al-Dakhan was third on his Yamaha, Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Shatti climbed to sixth, but Briton Anthony King slipped to eighth of the surviving 11 riders. Anas Al-Ruhyni retired.

Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi extended his overall advantage in the quad category to 1hr 11min 13sec with an impressive display to set the fastest time on his Yamaha. Fellow Saudi Sultan Al-Masoud climbed from fifth to second and Abdulmajeed bin Sumaidie rounded off the top three.

Rally Qassim 2019 is running with the support of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, the General Sport Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group and Al-Arabia.

The competitive action concludes with a run through the Al-Shamasiya stage on Saturday morning before the finishing ceremony in Buraidah takes place from 18.10hrs. — SG


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