Al-Attiyah, Abu Aishah and Al-Ahli lead after prologue stage of Saudi Baja-Hail

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Jordanian rider Abdullah Abu Aishah and Emirati racer Abdulaziz Ahli set the quickest times in their respective car, motorcycle and quad categories on the short Prologue stage that got the competitive action underway at the 2023 Saudi Baja-Hail on Thursday afternoon.

The short stage was increased to 4.08km in length and Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel moved into a 12-second lead in the cars with the fastest time of 2min 57sec.

Saudi driver Saleh Al-Saif and his Qatari navigator Nasser Al-Kuwari were second quickest and led the T3 lightweight prototype category in their Team Black Horse Can-Am Maverick X3, while defending FIA T4 champion Cristiano Batista and Fausto Moto finished the stage in third and topped the T4 standings in their South Racing Can-Am.

The opening round of the 2023 FIA World and Middle East Cups for Cross-Country Bajas, the FIM Bajas World Cup and the Saudi Toyota National Rally Championship attracted 26 starters in the FIA section, 26 FIM motorcycles and three quads. An impressive number of cars and bikes have also entered the national status event.

They were flagged away from the ceremonial start at Maghwat by H.R.H. Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, Chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), H.R.H. Prince Abdulaziz bin Saad bin Abdulaziz, Governor of the Hail Region, and H.R.H. Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Muqrin, Deputy Emir of the Hail Region.

Several leading drivers and riders had already attended the official pre-event press conference on Wednesday evening.

The stage times for the bikes and quads were multiplied by a co-efficient to give more of an incentive for riders to set a competitive time rather than relying on a tactical race strategy.

The talented young Jordanian rider Abdullah Abu Aishah got the better of his rival and friend Mohammed Al-Balooshi to win the motorcycle section on his KTM Amman-Darwazah Motors Rally Team bike. His Emirati MX Ride Dubai rival came home in second place and Great Britain’s Alex McInnes finished third. Local rider Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera and SRG Motorsport’s Emirati Abdullah Lanjawi rounded off the top five.

Abdulaziz Ahli beat the defending champion Haitham Al-Tuwaijri to top the times in the quads. Hani Al-Noumesi came home in third place.

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

The first of two selective sections through the neighbouring deserts starts at Jubbah on Friday morning and runs for 230km across rolling desert, gravel tracks and some sand dunes. The first bike is scheduled to start the competitive section at 08.40hrs, with the leading car taking the start at 10.17hrs.

2023 Saudi Baja-Hail – positions after Prologue stage (unofficial):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (AND) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 2min 57sec
2. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Can-Am Maverick (T3), 3min 09sec
3. Cristiano Batista (BRA)/Fausto Mota (PRT) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4), 3min 09sec
4. Otavio Sousa (BRA)/João Ferreira (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 3min 10sec
5. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Can-Am Maverick (T3), 3min 11sec
6. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Lukasz Kurzeja (POL) Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus, 3min 12sec
7. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (ARE) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 3min 14sec
8. Jeremie Warnia (FRA)/Loic Minaudier (FRA) Polaris RXR Pro R (T4), 3min 18sec
9. Fernando Alvarez (ARG)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Can-Am Maverick (T3), 3min 18sec
10. Ricardo Ramilo Suarez (ESP)/Andrei Rudnitskiy (ANA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4), 3min 18sec
11. Luis Maria Henderson (ARG)/Juan Carlos Carignani (ITA) Polaris RXR Pro R (T4), 3min 21sec
12. Kees Koolen (NLD)/Wouter Rosegaar (NLD) G Rally Team OT3 (T3), 3min 21sec
13. Saeed Al-Mouri (SAU)/Ata Al-Hmoud (JOR) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4), 3min 22sec
14. Santiago Navarro (ESP)/Adrien Metge (FRA) Can-Am Maverick (T3), 3min 25sec
15. Michele Cinotto (ITA)/Maurizio Dominella (ITA) Polaris RXR Pro R (T4), 3min 25sec
16. Diego Martinez (ESP)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) Can-Am Maverick (T3), 3min 26sec
17. Hamad Al-Harbi (SAU)/Dmytro Tsyro (UKR) Can-Am Maverick (T3), 3min 26sec
18. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Laurent Lichtleuchter (FRA) Can-Am Maverick (T3), 3min 27sec
19. Khaled Al-Feraihi (SAU)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Nissan Patrol Y61, 3min 33sec
20. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 3min 33sec
T1 unless stated

Bikes (top 20)
1. Abdullah Abu Aishah (JOR) KTM EXC-F 450, 28min 00sec
2. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) KTM 450 Rally, 28min 40sec
3. Alex McInnes (GBR) Husqvarna FE 450, 29min 04sec
4. Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera (SAU) KTM EXC F 450, 30min 00sec
5. Abdullah Lanjawi (ARE) Husqvarna FE 450, 30min 08sec
6. Andrew Houlihan (AUS) Husqvarna RFR 450, 30min 24sec
7. Ehab Al-Hakeem (LEB) Yamaha WR 450F, 30min 40sec
8. Jonathan Finn (CAN) Honda CRF 450 RL, 30min 48sec
9. Martin Chalmers (AUS) Beta 450, 30min 56sec
10. Mishal Al-Ghuneim (SAU) KTM 450 Rally, 31min 52sec
11. Anass Al-Rehyani (SAU) KTM 450, 32min 00sec
12. Ahmed Al-Jaber (SAU) KTM 450, 32min 40sec
13. Sultan Al-Balooshi (ARE) TM 450, 32min 56sec
14. Gerard Lubbinge (NLD) KTM EXC F 450, 33min 44sec
15. Abdullah Al-Shatti (KWT) Husqvarna 450, Rally 33min 44sec
16. Brett Hunt (GBR) Husqvarna FE 450, 35min 12sec
17. Mohammed Al-Kaabi (QAT) KTM 450, 35min 20sec
18. Abdulrahman Al-Sheeb (QAT) KTM 450, 35min 20sec
19. Barry Howe (GBR) KTM SXF 450, 36min 24sec
20. Sarah Khuraibet (KWT) Husqvarna FE 450, 36min 48sec

1. Abdulaziz Ahli (ARE) Yamaha Raptor 700, 28min 32sec
2. Haitham Al-Tuwaijri (SAU) Yamaha Raptor 700, 28min 40sec
3. Hani Al-Noumesi (SAU) Yamaha Raptor 700, 32min 56sec

Neil Perkins,


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