Seaidan amintains lead as Al-Rajhi wins stage two of new Al Ula-Neom Rally

Yasir Seaidan maintained his outright lead in the Al Ula–Neom Cross-Country Rally, but saw his advantage trimmed to 2min 52sec by fellow Saudi Arabian rival Yazeed Al-Rajhi on the second 212km loop stage through the deserts around Al Ula on Thursday.

Seaidan had guided his MINI All4 Racing to a lead of 5min 45sec at the start the second day of the third round of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, but Al-Rajhi carded the fastest time of 1hr 39min 40sec in his Toyota Hilux and Seaidan came in third behind Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi.

« The stage today was the same as yesterday, » said Al-Rajhi. « I pushed hard and I am happy with my time. After 130km, I slowed down because of the dust from the car in front. I was in the dust for the last 70km. Hopefully I can continue like this with this pace on Friday. »

Despite finishing as the stage runner-up, Al-Qassimi slipped a place to third in the overall rankings in his Peugeot 2008, but closed the gap on the leader to 4min 42sec. The Emirati said: « Today was quite fast and tricky. We don’t really have as good a top speed as the other cars. It is a Buggy at the end of the day. It is not easy and we took some risks to be on the pace with the other cars. »

The new Spanish pairing of Formula One star Fernando Alonso and Marc Coma continued their learning curve with fourth place for the second day in the second of the Toyota Hiluxes, Alonso staying clear of trouble to post a time of 1hr 47min 15sec that leaves him 11min 46sec off the lead.

He said: « It was the same as yesterday, but I pushed more and was a bit faster because I have more knowledge of the stage. I am happy with my stage, especially with the first part, where we were eight seconds behind Yazeed. I got a puncture today but I had more confidence than yesterday. Friday’s stage will be new for everyone and this is the learning curve for me. »

Czech Miroslav Zapletal displaced Essa Al-Dossary and climbed to fifth overall in his Ford F-150 Evo after beating his Nissan rival by 83 seconds on the day’s special.

The best of the rest was Saudi Arabia’s Khalid Al-Feraihi at the helm of his Nissan Patrol and the Saudi climbed to seventh in the rankings with French navigator Stéphane Duplé. Ahmed Al-Shegawi lost over 40 minutes and plummeted from seventh to 21st overall after his car rolled near the finish and he needed outside assistance to complete the day’s selective section.

The Saudi trio of Mutair Al-Shammeri, Mohammed Al-Tijiwri and new TL2 category leader Salman Al-Shammeri rounded off the top 10 on the event being organised by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of H.R.H. Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and supervision of former FIA Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab.

Salman Al-Shammeri now leads the showroom TL2 category by 2min 11sec from Sallal Al-Dossari.

Saleh Al-Saif climbed a position to 14th in the overall standings and maintained his lead in the T3 section in a Can-Am. Race officials also ran an NUTV class for Can-Am, Yamaha and Polaris derivatives and Yousef Al-Dhaif teamed up with French co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter to head the category by 25min 48sec after two stages.

Amongst the retirements were Mohammed Alabdulali from the NUTV section and Hummer drive Saleh Al-Abdulali, while Ibrahim Al-Muhanna did not start the stage in the T4 truck category.

KTM rider Mishal Alghuneim was the solitary survivor in the motorcycle class after Mohammed Al-Oraini and Abdullah Al-Helal both retired. Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi extended his lead in the quad section to 34min 23sec after an impressive fastest time that left closest rivals Riyadh Al-Orafan and Walid Al-Shegawi trailing in his wake.

Competitors will tackle a new stage of 231km from Al Ula to Neom that takes them through the village of Abu Gazaz on Friday.

The event is running with the support of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, the General Sport Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.

Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS2:
1. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/François Cazalet (FRA) MINI All4 Racing, 3hr 30min 20sec
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 3hr 33min 12sec
3. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Peugeot 2008, 3hr 35min 02sec
4. Fernando Alonso (ESP)/Marc Coma (ESP) Toyota Hilux, 3hr 42min 06sec
5. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK) Ford F-150 Evo, 3hr 46min 12sec
6. Essa Al-Dossari (SAU)/Sebastien Delaunay (FRA) Nissan Navara, 3hr 46min 35sec
7. Khalid Al-Feraihi (SAU)/Stéphane Duplé (FRA) Nissan, 4hr 12min 18sec
8. Mutair Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Hani Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan, 4hr 13min 27sec
9. Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri (SAU)/Khalid Al-Marshood (SAU) Toyota, 4hr 24min 05sec
10. Salman Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Rashed Al-Toyawi (SAU) Toyota, 4hr 30min 48sec

11. Sallal Al-Dossary (SAU)/Mohammed Eid (SAU) Nissan, 4hr 32min 59sec
12. Khalaf Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Jouan Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan, 4hr 34min 03sec
13. Faris Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Musa Djiyerian (JOR) Nissan, 4hr 35min 51sec
14. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Muath Al-Arja (JOR) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 4hr 36min 39sec
15. Yousef Al-Suwaidi (SAU)/Saud Al-Tamimi (SAU) Nissan (T2), 4hr 37min 41sec…

Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS2:
1. Mishal Algunheim (SAU) KTM, 5hr 48min 25sec
Mohammed Al-Oraini (SAU) Honda, RETIRED
Abdullah Al-Helal (SAU) Honda, RETIRED

Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS2:
1. Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi (SAU) Yamaha, 5hr 40min 48sec
2. Riyadh Al-Oraifan (SAU) Yamaha, 6hr 15min 11sec
3. Walid Al-Shegawi (SAU) Honda, 8hr 44min 59sec
4. Abdulkarim Al-Shegawi (SAU) Honda, 8hr 54min 45sec…

Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS2:
Ibrahim Al-Muhanna/Osama Al-Sanad/Raed Abo Theeb (SAU) Mercedes, DNS