KSA: Saudi’s Rajeh Al Shammeri edges into slender Rally Jeddah lead after day one
Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Fri 31st Jan 2014: Saudi Arabian driver Rajeh Farhan Al-Shammeri edged into a useful lead of 4min 06sec in the new Rally Jeddah after the opening 138km selective section through the Saudi desert on Friday morning. The Nissan driver began the stage from 13th on the road and recorded the fastest time after regular WRC driver and pre-event favourite Yazeed Al-Rajhi had relinquished a slender advantage in his Hummer midway through the special.
A plethora of quick Saudi drivers were quick to pick up on Al-Rajhi’s mid-stage problems and Sami Al-Shammeri, driving a Bakhashab Isuzu Team D-Max, eventually recorded the second quickest time, having started the special from third position. Al-Rajhi completed the stage in third – a mere five seconds behind the Isuzu – but the leading three drivers had pulled clear of a chasing pack of challengers.
Ahmed Shegawi and his UAE co-driver Yousef Arif Mohammed were 3min 17sec further behind in fourth place with their Chevrolet Buggy and Yahia Halawi and Ali Al-Saiari were fifth in a Nissan.
Saudi rider Hamad Al-Hdayan set the quickest time amongst the bikes and the quads and has an unofficial lead of 6min 29sec heading into Saturday’s final stage. Abdullah Ghazi Al-Shoaby reached the stage finish ahead of his rivals, but his stage time was unofficial pending an investigation into the Saudi missing route waypoints along the way. The UAE’s Atif Al-Zarouni missed a large section of the stage after technical problems, as Sultan Al-Masood reached the finish in second position.
Al-Rajhi and French co-driver Alex Winocq had clocked the fastest time of 3min 30sec on the Prologue stage to beat Saudi’s Ibrahim Al-Muhanna by five seconds after 29 cars and seven bikes and quads had tackled the opening stage. Ahmed Al-Shegawi was third.
The meat of the action began with a 138km selective section from Al-Buraikat to a finish near Al-Burykah, north of Jeddah on Friday. Saudi rider Abdullah Ghazi Al-Shoaby was the early pace setter on his Yamaha and he began to pull away from his challenging riders, as Hamad Al-Hdayan and Sultan Al-Masood gave chase. But it appeared that he may have missed waypoints along the route and Hdayan led from Al-Masood and Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi as the riders reached 88km. Egyptian rider Rakan Al-Sallum failed to start the morning’s special.
Al-Rajhi started as clear favourite to win the car category and the Saudi had edged into a virtual 2min 29sec advantage over Shegawi at the first passage control. Yayha Al-Helai and Sami Al-Shammeri were in close attendance, but Al-Rajhi continued to press home his advantage as the stage progressed and he reached the 31km point 3min 47sec in front of Al-Shammeri.
Sami Al-Shammeri continued to challenge hard and he had reduced Al-Rajhi’s virtual stage lead to 3min 25sec at PC2. But Al-Rajhi was delayed soon afterwards and he reached the 66km point trailing Al-Shammeri by 2min 46sec.
Al-Rajhi had reduced his rival’s virtual stage lead to just 32 seconds at PC3. Further down the field, both Abdulmonem Al-Ghamdi and Said Jaber Al-Shamrani were running inside the top five and Rajeh Farhan Al-Shammeri was enjoying a storming run. He was classified in the virtual top three after 66km and trailed Al-Rajhi by just nine seconds, having started the stage 13th on the road. Al-Helai stopped with mechanical issues before the halfway point, as did Al-Shamrani who had been running as high as second through 39km.
After 105km, Al-Shammeri’s virtual stage advantage over Al-Rajhi was down to just 13 seconds, but Rajeh Farhan Al-Shammeri was in stunning form and the winner of the 2007 Ha’il International Rally led the stage outright by 1min 12sec and extended that advantage to the finish.
Cars passed through the mandatory technical checks at Land Rover Centre in the Auto Mall on Wednesday afternoon in the presence of HRH Prince Sultan Bin Bandar, head of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF), Anwar Helmi of the SAMF and organiser of the Ha’il International Rally and Abdullah Bakhashab, head of Rally Jeddah’s executive committee. “At last the dream has come true and Jeddah has its first international rally,” enthused Bakhashab.
The 1992 FIA Middle East rally champion Mamdouh Khayat is driving the official Land Rover course car.
The new event is being held under the patronage of H.R.H. Prince Mishaal Bin Majid Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Governor of Jeddah and head of Rally Jeddah’s Higher Organising Committee.
Rally Jeddah is being organised with the support of the Higher Committee of the Jeddah Rally which incorporates the General Presidency of Youth Welfare, Jeddah Municipality, the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiques in the Mecca region, a branch of the Saudi Red Crescent in Mecca, the Jeddah Police and Traffic Departments and Civil Defence Administration in Jeddah. MYN Motors is supplying Land Rovers as the official car for Rally Jeddah.
A second 139km selective through the remote deserts in the Jeddah region starts at 12.25hrs on Saturday and again finishes at Al-Burykah and precedes the finish celebrations in Obhur from 19.20hrs.
Spectators can follow all the news for Rally Jeddah on Facebook, flicker, Twitter and Instagram (rallyJeddah).
Positions on leg 1 (unofficial):
1. Rajeh Farhan Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Mubarak Al-Shammeri (KSA) Nissan 1hr 43min 31sec
2. Sami Al-Shammeri (KSA)/Abdullah Al-Shammeri (KSA) Isuzu D-Max 1hr 47min 37sec
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Alex Winocq (FRA) Hummer Dbug 1hr 47min 42sec
4. Ahmed Al-Shegawi (KSA)/Arif Yousef Mohammed (UAE) Chevrolet Buggy 1hr 50min 59sec
5. Yahia Halawi (KSA)/Ali Al-Saiari (KSA) Nissan Patrol 1hr 54min 11sec, etc
1. Hamad Al-Hdayan (KSA) Yamaha 700 1hr 58min 35sec
2. Sultan Al-Masood (KSA) Suzuki 450 2hr 05min 04sec
3. Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi (KSA) Honda 450 2hr 07min 33sec
4. Abdulaziz Al-Hathlul (KSA) Honda 450 2hr 35min 10sec