Al-Rajhi, Mcines and Al-Tuwaijri take control after first leg of Saudi Baja 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 reached a conclusion on Friday afternoon.

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

At the wheel of an Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux, Al-Rajhi and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz carded a time of 2hr 36min 19sec to move 9min 48sec 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.

The Saudi said: « 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. »

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. He said: « 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. »

Khalid Al-Feraihi finished the day in fourth overall and second in T1 with French navigator Sébastien Delaunay. The Saudi said: « 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 10km, 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 tyres 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 1min 43sec. 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 arch rival Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi to lead the quad category by 8min 43sec 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 3min 30sec 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 organised by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), in conjunction with the Ministry of Sport and in partnership with Abdul Latif Jameel (ALJ) Motors.

Tomorrow (Friday), competitors will tackle a 183.42km selective section to the west of Hail that is split into two parts by a neutralisation section. The timed test is named after the nearby remote village of Farhaniyah.

Saudi Baja 2022-Hail (positions after Stage SS1B (unofficial):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 2hr 39min 28sec
2. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK) Ford F150 Evo, 2hr 49min 16sec
3. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 2hr 55min 07sec
4. Khaled Al-Feraihi (SAU)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Nissan Patrol, 3hr 00min 51sec
5. Eduard Pons (ESP)/Mónica Plaza Vasquez (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4), 3hr 01min 28sec
6. Kees Koolen (NLD)/Paolo Ceci (ITA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4), 3hr 01min 57sec
7. Hamed Al-Harbi (SAU)/Dmytro Tsyro (UKR) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 3hr 03min 26sec
8. Aliyyah Koloc (ARE)/Stéphane Duplé (FRA) Buggyra Can-Am DV21 (T3), 3hr 05min 21sec
9. Cristiano Batista (BRA)/Fausto Mota (PRT) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR (T4), 3hr 05min 22sec
10. Egidijus Valeiša (LTU)/ Mindaugas Varža (LTU) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4), 3hr 08min 05sec
11. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 3hr 09min 11sec
12. Mashael Al-Obaidan (SAU)/Wouter Rosegaar (NLD) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 3hr 10min 16sec
T1 unless stated

FIM Bike
1. Alex McInnes (GBR) Husqvarna FE 450, 3hr 07min 41sec
2. Makis Rees-Stavros (GBR) KTM EXC F 450, 3hr 09min 24sec
3. Anass Al-Reheyani (SAU) KTM EXC F 450, 3hr 18min 23sec
4. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) TM 450, 3hr 20min 51sec
5. Martin Chalmers (QAT) Honda CRF 450, 3hr 21min 44sec
6. Abdullah Al-Shatti (KWT) Kawasaki KC 450, 3hr 25min 53sec
7. Mishal Al-Ghuneim (SAU) Husqvarna 450, Rally 3hr 31min 06sec
8. Ahmed Al-Jaber (SAU) KTM 450 Rally, 3hr 32min 03sec
9. Brett Hunt (GBR) Husqvarna FE 450, 3hr 33min 31sec
10. Abdullah Abu Aishah (JOR) KTM 450 Factory Rally, 3hr 34min 45sec
11. Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera (SAU) KTM EXC 450, 3hr 35min 19sec
12. Salman Mohamed Farhan (BAH) Husqvarna FE 450, 3hr 45min 23sec

FIM Quads
1. Haitham Al-Tuwaijri (SAU) Yamaha Raptor 700, 3hr 32min 51sec
2. Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi (SAU) Yamaha Raptor 700, 3hr 41min 34sec
3. Hani Al-Noumesi (SAU) Yamaha Raptor 700, 27hr 04min 11sec
4. Abdulaziz Ahli (SAU) Yamaha YFZ 450R, 28hr 48min 41sec

Neil Perkins,