Toyota’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi storms into day one lead at Rally Aseer

Toyota Hilux driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi and his stand-in German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz clocked the fastest time of 1hr 43min 04.1sec and stormed into an early lead at the Abha-based Rally Aseer, the opening round of the 2022 Saudi Toyota Rally Championship.

The Yazeed Racing-run Toyota never missed a beat on the challenging special that wound its way through mountainous terrain in south-western Saudi Arabia. Al-Rajhi duly reached the night halt with a cushion of 10min 33.1sec over second-placed Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal and his Slovakian co-driver Marek Sykora.

Twenty cars passed technical checks and were authorised to start the two-day event, but only 19 teams reached the slightly revised opening selective section of 182.10km that was split into two sections and ran between Al-Ghadah and Al-Qa’ah. Muneef Al-Salmani and Fahad Al-Omar were non-starters on Friday morning.

The talented Saleh Al-Saif teamed up with Spain’s Oriol Vidal to guide his Black Horse Can-Am Maverick into the T3 category lead and third overall on the return to Abha.

Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri delivered a strong stage performance with Peruvian co-driver Hector Garcia to hold fourth, while Khalid Al-Feraihi and his French journeyman navigator Sébastien Delaunay rounded off the top five.

Hamad Al-Harbi and Alexey Kuzmich guided the Al-Shegawi Racing Can-Am to sixth and second place in the T3 section. Defending FIA T3 World Champion Dania Akeel and her Uruguayan navigator Sergio Lafuente reached the stage finish in seventh overall and third in her category.

Saeed Al-Mouri and Jordanian co-driver Ata Al-Hmoud stopped in the stage with radiator issues and handed the T4 advantage to Maha Al-Hamali and her Spanish co-driver Maria de Los Angeles. But Al-Hamali also failed to finish the day’s competition in a second Black Horse Can-Am and both crews incurred a fistful of time penalties as a result.

Saudi Border Guard (SBG) team driver Jafar Al-Qahtani rounded off the top 10 and led the T2 section for series-production cross-country vehicles from Ahmed Al-Shegawi and his SBG team-mate Haylan Al-Subaie.

The event is being organised by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) in conjunction with the Ministry of Sport, Saudi Motorsport Marshals Club and the Saudi Motorsport Company, in partnership with Abdul Latif Jameel (ALJ) Motors Toyota.

Tomorrow (Saturday), competitors tackle a slightly modified second selective section of 186.73km that is also split into two sections and passes between Tareeb and Al-Qa’ah.

Aseer Rally 2022 – positions after leg 1 (182.10km)
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Hilux, 1hr 43min 04.1sec
2. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK) Ford F-150 Evo, 1hr 53min 37.2sec
3. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 1hr 55min 48.1sec
4. Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri (SAU)/Hector Garcia (PER) Nissan, 1hr 57min 51.6sec
5. Khalid Al-Feraihi (SAU)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Nissan, 1hr 58min 10.0sec
6. Hamad Al-Harbi (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 2hr 04min 38.8sec
7. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 2hr 19min 10.8sec
8. Ahmed Al-Gashami (SAU)/Nawaf Al-Enezi (KWT) Nissan, 2hr 24min 05.5sec
9. Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh (SAU)/Omar Al-Lahim (SAU) Nissan, 2hr 25min 08.0sec
10. Jafar Al-Qahtani (SAU)/Ali Al-Yami (SAU) Nissan (T2), 2hr 29min 37.0sec
11. Ahmed Al-Shegawi (SAU)/Waleed Al-Shegawi (SAU) Nissan (T2), 2hr 32min 46.5sec
12. Haylan Al-Subaie (SAU)/Hussam Al-Zahrani (SAU) Nissan (T2), 2hr 48min 30.3sec
13. Mubarak Al-Zubaidi (SAU)/Saad bin Juraybah (SAU) Toyota, 2hr 49min 43.2sec
14. Ibrahim Bin Sahman (SAU)/Yazeed Al-Tamime (SAU) Nissan (T2), 2hr 51min 48.5sec, etc
T1 unless stated

Neil Perkins,