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Al-Rajhi, McInnes, Al-Tuwaijri in control after first leg of Saudi Baja 2022-Hail

HAIL: Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Alex McInnes and Haitham Al-Tuwaijri took control of their respective car, motorcycle and quad categories after the first leg of Saudi Baja 2022–Hail concluded on Friday afternoon.

Competitors tackled a selective section of 229.52 kilometers to the west and northwest of Hail that was split by a neutralization link into two parts of 101.52 km and 128.00 km.

At the wheel of an Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Rajhi and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz recorded a time of 2 hours, 36 minutes, 19 seconds, to move 9 minutes, 48 seconds ahead of rivals Miroslav Zapletal (Ford F-150 Evo) and Marek Sykora in the duel for the drivers’ title in both the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas and the Saudi Toyota Rally Championship.

“It was a nice stage and I enjoyed it a lot. There were a lot of technical places. We did a good time and Dirk did a great job. The weather was different and not too hot today. No rain but the ground is hard after the rain yesterday,” said Al-Rajhi.

Fernando Alvarez strengthened his grip on the T3 Championship in the FIA World Cup by setting the third-quickest time, and he moved into a similar position in the rankings in his Can-Am Maverick with French co-driver Xavier Panseri. The Spaniard’s nearest T3 rival was seventh-placed Hamed Al-Harbi, who is chasing glory in the FIA Middle East Cup.

Alvarez started the stage from seventh on the road. “We did very well and we are happy with third place. The car was perfect. We had no problems and stayed all the time on a good way. We will continue pushing all the way because I want to be on the podium for the overall with the T1s. Today was supposed to rain but we had no rain.”

Al-Harbi added: “The stage was very nice but it was very cold in the morning. It was full speed and taking care. Only Yazeed passed me on the stage today.”

Eduard Pons topped the times in the FIA T4 section and edged 29 seconds clear of Kees Koolen. With Kuwait’s championship leader Meshari Al-Thefiri suffering major time delays with electrical issues, that handed the initiative to Cristiano de Sousa Batista and Koolen in the three-way fight for the FIA title.

Al-Thefiri said: “We had changed the engine but still suffered in the car with some electrical problem which forced the engine to shut down many times. We managed to restart and pass De Sousa but the problem worsened after the neutral section.”

Saudi Arabia’s Khalid Al-Feraihi finished the day in fourth overall and second in T1 with French navigator Sebastien Delaunay. “Had a wonderful day. We had minor issues, as we expect in such stages, but we finished in safely.”

Qatar’s Mohammed Al-Attiyah teamed up with Emirati co-driver Ali Mirza, but the South Racing Can-Am duo were forced to retire after an accident. Mirza said: “Unfortunately, after 10 km, we had an accident and we broke the car. Mohammed and I are okay and, hopefully, we have enough parts so we can continue tomorrow.”

Al-Attiyah added: “We tried to overtake the driver (Camelia Liparoti) in front while descending a hill, but we landed on the front tires and rolled over.”

Dania Akeel was the highest-placed female driver in 11th overall and fourth in T3. The Saudi said: “I love Hail Baja, the crowds gathering to watch the stage. It was a good stage with its own challenges. We hope to finish in a good position for the next round in Dubai.”

Alex McInnes was the class of the motorcycle field on his Husqvarna FE 450. The Briton won the stage by 93 seconds from Makis Rees-Stavros and headed into the night halt in Hail with a lead of 1:43.0. Saudi Arabia’s Anass Al-Reheyani, Emirati Mohammed Al-Balooshi and Qatar-based Australian Martin Chalmers rounded off the top five.

Haitham Al-Tuwaijri got the better of his archrival Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi to lead the quad category by 8:43.0 on his Yamaha Raptor 700. The two Saudi riders were the class of the field that saw Hani Al-Noumesi and Abdulaziz Ahli both incur massive time penalties after technical issues.

Ahmed Al-Shammeri led Motab Al-Shammeri by 3:30.0 in the Saudi National Baja for cars and Yasir Al-Khuraif was the leading rider in the National section for motorcycles.

The seventh round of both the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas and the FIM Bajas World Cup, round three of the FIA Middle East Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, and the third event in the Saudi Toyota Rally Championship, is being organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, in conjunction with the Ministry of Sport and in partnership with Abdul Latif Jameel Motors.

Saudi Baja 2022-Hail positions (unofficial):

1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Saudi Arabia)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (Germany) Toyota Hilux Overdrive: 2:39:28

2. Miroslav Zapletal (Czech Republic)/Marek Sykora (Slovakia) Ford F150 Evo: 2:49:16

3. Fernando Alvarez (Spain)/Xavier Panseri (France) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3): 2:55:07

4. Khaled Al-Feraihi (Saudi Arabia)/Sebastien Delaunay (France) Nissan Patrol: 3:00:51

5. Eduard Pons (Spain)/Monica Plaza Vasquez (Spain) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4): 3:01:28

6. Kees Koolen (Netherlands)/Paolo Ceci (Italy) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4): 3:01:57

7. Hamed Al-Harbi (Saudi Arabia)/Dmytro Tsyro (Ukraine) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3): 3:03:26

8. Aliyyah Koloc (UAE)/Stephane Duple (France) Buggyra Can-Am DV21 (T3): 3:05:21

9. Cristiano Batista (Brazil)/Fausto Mota (Portugal) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR (T4): 3:05:22

10. Egidijus Valeisa (Lithuania)/ Mindaugas Varza (Lithuania) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo: 3:08:05

11. Dania Akeel (Saudi Arabia)/Sergio Lafuente (Uruguay) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3): 3:09:11

12. Mashael Al-Obaidan (Saudi Arabia)/Wouter Rosegaar (Netherlands) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3): 3:10:16

T1 unless stated

FIM Bikes

1. Alex McInnes (Great Britain) Husqvarna FE 450: 3:07:41

2. Makis Rees-Stavros (Great Britain) KTM EXC F 450: 3:09:24

3. Anass Al-Reheyani (Saudi Arabia) KTM EXC F 450: 3:18:23

4. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (UAE) TM 450: 3:20:51

5. Martin Chalmers (Qatar) Honda CRF 450: 3:21:44

6. Abdullah Al-Shatti (Kuwait) Kawasaki KC 450: 3:25:53

7. Mishal Al-Ghuneim (Saudi Arabia) Husqvarna 450 Rally: 3:31:06

8. Ahmed Al-Jaber (Saudi Arabia) KTM 450 Rally: 3:32:03

9. Brett Hunt (Great Britain) Husqvarna FE 450: 3:33:31

10. Abdullah Abu Aishah (Jordan) KTM 450 Factory Rally: 3:34:45

11. Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera (Saudi Arabia) KTM EXC 450: 3:35:19

12. Salman Mohamed Farhan (Bahrain) Husqvarna FE 450: 3:45:23

FIM Quads

1. Haitham Al-Tuwaijri (Saudi Arabia) Yamaha Raptor 700: 3:32:51

2. Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi (Saudi Arabia) Yamaha Raptor 700: 3:41:34

3. Hani Al-Noumesi (Saudi Arabia) Yamaha Raptor 700: 27:04:11

4. Abdulaziz Ahli (Saudi Arabia) Yamaha YFZ 450R: 28:48:41

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