: Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and German navigator Timo Gottschalk cruised to a comfortable victory in the Ha’il Nissan International Rally on Monday morning after winning the super special and all four selective sections in Saudi Arabia’s premier motor sport event.
The Riyadh driver began the final leg with a lead of 1min 01min 46sec and extended that to a winning margin of 1hr 23min 45sec to confirm a second successive win in his powerful Hummer and a record fifth in total.
“I am extremely happy to win this rally for the fifth time,” said Al-Rajhi. “I notice the progress the event makes year-after-year and it is getting better with the support from Prince Saud Bin Abdul Mohsen Bin Abdul Aziz, Prince Abdullah bin Khalid and Prince Sultan Bin Bandar Al-Faisal.
“The competition was different this year and I have noticed the progress that all the drivers are making and that reflects in the atmosphere of the rally. I had a few early setbacks. We lost our way in the first stage and had to retrace our steps to avoid getting lost and missing a waypoint and the engine also stopped for some minutes. I had a different strategy this year. I took it easier and controlled my pace to ensure that I could win.”
No one in the 46-field was a match for Al-Rajhi, although Rajah-Fahan Al-Shammeri drove impressively in his Nissan Patrol to claim fourth overall and victory in the T2 category. “I am delighted to be the champion and I want to remain the champion,” said Al-Shammeri. “I hope that Nissan will give me more support next year.”
Ahmed-Abdullah Al-Shehail finished second overall in another Nissan and the Japanese manufacturer and title sponsor also filled third, sixth, seventh, ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th positions, courtesy of strong performances by Saudi’s Faris Al-Mashna and the Saudi sextet of Meshaal Al-Saeedi, Khalid Al-Fraihi, Ahmed Al-Gashami, Ahmed Al-Shegawi, Munif Al-Salmani and Jaafar-Majed Al-Qahtani. Al-Shegawi, for his part, set the second quickest time on the last stage.
Khalaf-Jouan Al-Shammeri steered the leading Toyota home in eighth position and the experienced Ahmed Al-Sabban was fifth in a Ford Raptor. There was disappointment for the Lebanese driver Emil Khneisser and his Russian navigator Alexsei Kuzmich. They suffered persistent gearbox problems within sight of the finish in their Nissan Patrol, lost fifth place and slipped out of the top 10.
Qatar’s Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani began well with the second fastest time in the super special stage, but technical issues accounted for his Nissan Patrol and the likes of Khalid Al-Jaflah, Atif Al-Zarouni and Ahmed Al-Shegawi also had their own fair share of problems that ruined potentially better results. Al- Zarouni, Yayha Ali-Abdu and Fahd Al-Abdulattif actually started the final selective section and then returned directly to the finish.
Abdul-Majeed Al-Khulaifi retained his quad title with a comfortable victory over Heshayan Al-Heshayan’s Yamaha and Ahmed Al-Nasser rode the solitary Honda motorcycle and completed the event once again. Abdulsalem Hamam finished an unofficial third in the quads.
The rally was 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 was organised in conjunction with the High Authority for the Development of Ha’il.