HA’IL (Saudi Arabia): Saudi Arabian driver Essa Al-Dossari set the quickest time in the car category on the opening super special stage of the 14th Ha’il Nissan International Rally on Saturday afternoon.
The defending champion, partnered by UAE navigator Ali Hassan Obaid, steered his ED Racing Nissan Navara to a time of 3min 05.0sec through the 3.93km Mashar special to snatch an early lead of 11.8 seconds.
Al-Dossari said: “I want to try and make a big lead tomorrow so that I have a gap for the following two days. I had problems late on last year but I had a cushion and I want to use the same strategy again this time.”
The Kuwaiti duo of Nasser Al-Ajmi and Shaheen Al-Mudakha were second overall in their Nissan and Al-Dossari’s ED Racing team-mates, Abdullah Al-Heraiz and Ali Mirza, rounded off the top three.
Nissans filled nine of the top 10 positions. Saudi Arabia’s Muneef Al-Salmani led the T2 category and held ninth overall in his showroom category Nissan Patrol. Saudi driver Nazel Al-Shammeri rolled his Toyota Land Cruiser on the stage and lost around 12 minutes.
The UTVs and T3s were registered in a different results classification to the cars in T1 and T2. Saleh Al-Saif guided his T3 Can-Am to a time of 3min 09.8sec and that would have put the Saudi driver second overall in the overall classification. The UAE’s Khaled Al-Jafla was a close second in his T3 Can-Am and would have been third overall.
Former event winner Ibrahim Al-Muhanna switched to racing a T4 truck for the first time and clocked a time of 4min 08.6sec in his Mercedes. It marked the first time that a truck had raced competitively in an FIA-sanctioned event in Saudi Arabia on the driver’s 130th career event start.
Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi has won the quad category every year since 2014 and the Saudi kick-started his bid for a sixth successive win with an opening time of 3min 15.7sec to take a 3.4-second advantage over Khalifa Jassim Al-Raisi into the overnight halt.
Defending motorcycle category winner Sultan Al-Balooshi opened his account by losing over three minutes to his three rivals on a stage where fellow Emirati Mohammed Al-Shamsi set the fastest time.
Thirty-one cars, 10 UTVs, one truck, four motorcycles and four quads started the event, thus emphasising the growing popularity of off-road rallying in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The 14th edition of the event is being organised by the Ha’il Regional Development Authority in co-operation with the General Authority for Tourism and National Heritage and the General Authority for Sport. It is being held under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Saud, Governor of Ha’il and President of the Supreme Commission for Ha’il Development.
Tomorrow (Sunday), the opening selective section of 189.05km starts and finishes in the town of Baqa’a, 109.49km from the event’s headquarters at the Maghwat conference centre, with the first car on the stage from 09.15hrs.
14th Ha’il Nissan International Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS1:
1. Essa Al-Dossari (SAU)/Ali Hassan Obaid (ARE) Nissan Patrol 3min 05.0sec
2. Nasser Al-Ajmi (KUW)/Shaheen Al-Mudakha (KUW) Nissan 3min 16.8sec
3. Abdullah Al-Heraiz (UAE)/Ali Mirza (UAE) Nissan Pick-Up 3min 18.9sec
4. Mohammed Al-Tawijri (SAU)/Omar Abdullah Al-Lahim (Toyota) 3min 20.1sec
5. Ahmed Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Waleed Al-Fiuam (SAU) Nissan 3min 24.1sec
6. Khalid Al-Feraihi (SAU)/Sebastian Delaunay (FRA) Nissan 3min 24.2sec
7. Ahmed Al-Shuhail (SAU)/Rasheed Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan Patrol 3min 24.3sec
8. Metab Al-Qnoon (SAU)/Abdullah Al-Qnoon (SAU) Nissan 3min 24.4sec
9. Muneef Al-Salmani (SAU)/Abdulsalem Al-Nammesh (SAU) Nissan T2 3min 27.2sec
10. Faris Al-Moshana (SAU)/Saud Al-Tamimi (SAU) Nissan 3min 28.1sec
1. Saleh Abdullah Al-Saif (SAU)/Shaker Al-Tuwairy (SAU) Can-Am T3 3min 09.8sec
2. Khaled Al-Jafla (UAE)Ahmed Malik (UAE) Can-Am T3 3min 12.8sec
3. Khalil Al-Tawijri (SAU)/Waleed Al-Tawijri (SAU) Can-Am 3min 19.4sec
4. Talal Al-Thukair (SAU)/Kinill Shubin (RUS) Can-Am 3min 20.6sec
5. Sami Ibrahim Al-Qafari (SAU)/Ibrahim Al-Muhimed (SAU) Can-Am 3min 22.0sec
1. Ibrahim Al-Muhanna (SAU)/Osama Al-Sanad (SAU) Mercedes Truck T4 4min 08.6sec
1. Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi (SAU) Yamaha 3min 15.7sec
2. Khalifa Jassim Al-Raisi (UAE) Honda 3min 19.1sec
3. Abdulmajeed Aboud (SAU) Yamaha 3min 22.8sec
2. Abdulsalem Hamam (SAU) Yamaha 3min 39.0sec
1. Mohammed Al-Shamsi (UAE) KTM 3min 51.7sec
2. Ali Al-Balooshi (UAE) KTM 3min 51.9sec
3. Abdullah Bin Dakhan (UAE) Yamaha 3min 53.6sec
4. Sultan Al-Balooshi (UAE) KTM 6min 05.0sec