HA’IL (Saudi Arabia): Competitors face a difficult route laid on by the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF) for the 13th running of the Ha’il Nissan International Rally on January 15-18. The event again ventures into the remote An Nafud desert to the north of the city of Ha’il in the north-central region of the Kingdom and runs over four days.
Scrutineering, documentation and pre-rally formalities will take place at the Maghwat Conference Centre on the outskirts of the city on Saturday and Sunday (January 13-14) and the competitive action fires into life from 16.35hrs on Monday afternoon with a short super special stage of 3.87km at Mashar. The leading five competitors will be able to choose their starting positions for the following day.
The first of three selective sections of 189.69km through the An Nafud desert is scheduled for Tuesday, January 16th, starting and finishing at Baqa’a.
Race officials have laid on a daunting section of 351.01km for Wednesday, January 17th and this competitive section starts out of Radifah, 59.93km from Ha’il, at 08.40hrs and finishes in Umm Al-Qulban. The fourth day includes a selective section of 168.57km that starts near Al-Ghazalah, 65.1km from the service area, and finishes close to Ha’il.
Yasir Saeidan is the current FIA T2 World Champion and the Saudi driver will tackle the event in his Toyota Land Cruiser fitted with a diesel engine. Saeidan was a runaway winner of the T2 category last year in the prestigious FIA series and scored maximum points in T2 at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Qatar Cross-Country Rally, Rally Kazakhstan, Italian Baja and Rally of Morocco.
Reigning Saudi Arabian T2 champion Muneef Salmani will also take part in his Nissan Patrol entered in the T2 section. He uses a car formerly campaigned in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies by the Abu Dhabi-based Lebanese driver Emil Khneisser and has official backing from Nissan Saudi Arabia.
Fares Al-Mashna Al-Shammeri is also relishing the start. The Saudi won the event last year with Saud Al-Taimi in a Nissan Patrol and is hoping to defend his title in a Nissan T1 Pick-Up.
Khalaf Joan Al-Shammeri is also out for success in the An Nafud deserts in his Toyota Land Cruiser T1, while the 2014 Ha’il winner Ibrahim Muhanna returns to try and win the event for a second time in a T1 Nissan Patrol. Meanwhile, Saleh Al-Abdelal will drive the powerful Hummer that five-time event winner Yazeed Al-Rajhi guided to victory in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
The UAE driver Abdullah Al-Kitbi adds a little international spice to the initial entries for Saudi’s flagship off-road event.
The Ha’il Nissan International Rally will be 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.