The Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF) has confirmed the format of the 2016 Ha’il International Rally, which will run through the north-central region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from March 9-14. Rally officials have confirmed that registration is now open for motorcycle and car competitors. Administration and documentation will take place at the Maghwat Conference Centre in the outskirts of Ha’il on March 8 and scrutineering will follow on March 9.
Organisers have then laid on a timed super special stage in close proximity to the start area on March 10 and this precedes four selective sections through the An Nafud deserts on March 11-14. The terrain has been carefully chosen to include sections of sand dunes, rocky tracks, softer sand and wadis.
The rally is being staged under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Saud Bin Abdul Mohsen Bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Ha’il, President of the Supreme Commission for Ha’il Development and the Head of the Supreme Commission of the Ha’il Rally. The SAMF runs under the chairmanship of His Royal Highness Prince Sultan Bin Bandar Al-Faisal and the event is being organised in conjunction with the High Authority for the Development of Ha’il.
Ha’il ran for the first time as a small club event in 2006, rapidly expanded and became a full international the following year. It was a candidate for the FIA International Cross-Country Cup for Bajas in 2007 and took its place as a round of the prestigious FIA series in 2008 and 2010. It runs as a stand-alone FIA sanctioned rally on this occasion in its 11th year.
After the success of the small national event in 2006, the Ha’il Rally gained international status in 2007 and was won by the local driver Rajeh Al-Shammeri in a Toyota Land Cruiser. Its popularity grew quickly as motor sport blossomed in the Kingdom and two-time Dakar Rally winner Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah won in a BMW X3 CC with Matthieu Baumel in 2008. Al-Attiyah teamed up with German navigator Timo Gottschalk to claim a second win three years later with a Volkswagen Race Touareg.
Yazeed Al-Rajhi also has a successful record on the Ha’il Rally. The Saudi claimed victory with Baumel in 2009 with a Nissan Navara and in 2010 with a Mitsubishi Racing Lancer. He snatched a third title in 2012 with Filipe Palmeiro at the wheel of a Mini All4 Racing. A crash and a back injury sidelined the Saudi in 2013 and Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal claimed the laurels in a Hummer.
Al-Rajhi also retired with mechanical problems in 2014 and this paved the way for Ibrahim Al-Muhanna and Ali Obaid to claim an unlikely triumph in their Nissan Patrol. Al-Rajhi returned and teamed up with Gottschalk again in 2015 to claim an emphatic fourth win in a Hummer.
Motorcycles and quads have been permitted to take part since 2013, with Ahmed Al-Nasser winning the motorcycle section last year and Abdul Majeed Al-Khulaifi topping the quads for a second year.