Al-Rajhi, Al-Balooshi and Al-Tuwaijri lead car, motorcycle and quad battles after opening desert stage of Rally Qassim Toyoya

– Saudi trio of Asiri, Seaidan and Al-Hameli on top in T2, T3 and T4 categories

Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Mohammed Al-Balooshi and Haitham Al-Tuwaijri extended their advantages in the car, motorcycle and quad categories after the Ash Shimasiyah desert stage of 186km at Rally Qassim Toyota 2023 on Friday morning.

After winning the Prologue on Thursday afternoon, Al-Rajhi and his German co-driver Timo Gottschalk opted to start the first of two desert stages from 10th on the road and the Saudi used that starting position to full advantage to win the day’s test inn his Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux and extend his lead to 2min 41sec.

Al-Rajhi said: « It was a good stage for us. I drive well and Timo did a great job with no mistakes. We had a clean run and we have a good gap and, I think for tomorrow, we take it easy. »

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Lucas Moraes and Armand Monleón began the stage from ninth on the road. The Brazilian was able to record the second quickest time to maintain a cushion of 7min 04sec over third-placed Saleh Alabdulali and co-driver Mohammed Al-Naim in a Yazeed Racing-backed Toyota.

Alabdulali said: « I had a puncture in the very first kilometre of the stage and it took me two minutes roughly to change the tyre. The stage was very open, so it needed more attention for navigation and checkpoints. Lucas caught us after 70 or 80km and we finished the stage together. It was a decent start after a three-year hiatus and a new car for me with one day to practice and adapt. I’m hoping for a better run tomorrow. »

Race World Can-Am Maverick driver Yasir Seaidan teamed up with former French Dakar rider Michael Metge to finish the day in fourth and build up a lead of 5min 13sec in the T3 section for lightweight prototype machines. He said: « A nice fast stage but it was not suitable for Can-Ams with only 135km/h top speed on the speedy sections. We crossed the dunes nicely with the crispy hard top layer (sand) after the rain. »

Their closest challenger was Dark Horse Team Can-Am Maverick X3 driver Saleh Al-Saif, who finished the stage in fifth and held a similar position in the general classification. The UAE duo of Rashid Al-Ketbi and Ali Mirza brought the first of the R-X Sport-run Can-Ams home in 10th behind the Nissans of Khalid Al-Feraihi. Faris Al-Moshna, Abdullah Al-Haydan and Al-Mashna Al-Ramali.

Al-Ketbi said: « Dania (Akeel) urged me to participate in the rally. It was enjoyable. Our initial aim is to finish the rally safely without problems, so we drove accordingly. »

Saudi Arabia’s leading female driver Dania Akeel came home in 11th and fourth in T3 in the second of the R-X Sport Mavericks with French co-driver Stéphane Duplé.

« Fun and fast…, » said Akeel. « A lot of open spaces. Beautiful desert scenery as always. The desert was green instead of brown because of all the rain. It was a big advantage for T1 cars. We would catch the T1 on the dunes in a short distance and then lose them again on the flats. It was interesting trying to pass the faster cars with a higher speed limit. »

Mohammed Al-Asiri held a narrow advantage over Khaled Al-Shammeri and Abdullah Al-Sanad in the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles, while Ahmed Al-Shegawi lost his overnight T4 lead to Maha Al-Hameli’s 20th-placed Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR.

UAE rider Mohammed Al-Balooshi was again the class of the motorcycle field on his KTM 450. The FIM Bajas World Cup champion won the day’s stage by 2min 59sec to extend his lead over local rider Anas Al-Rahyani to 3min 15sec. Qatar-based Martin Chalmers and the Saudi duo of Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera and Marwan Al-Ramani rounded off the top five on a stage where Gerard Lubbinge was the only biker to struggle with the loss of over a quarter of an hour.

Al-Balooshi said: « ery fast tracks but we reached the finish line in one piece. I am hoping to continue on the same pace tomorrow. »

Fifth-placed Al-Ramani added: « It was a nice stage. I enjoyed it with such an atmosphere. They were very fast tracks so it should be taken cautiously by the newbies. I put in a good performance. »

The Yamaha duo of Haitham Al-Tuwaijri and Qatar-based Emiel Stuckens were again the class of the quad field but the Belgian won the stage to reduce his rival’s advantage to 58 seconds. Abdulaziz Al-Atawi was a distant third and Hani Al-Noumesi came home in fourth. Clutch issues sidelined Abdulrahman Alabdullatif before the stage started.

Stage winner Stuckens said: « It was awesome. The weather was nice and the scenery was beautiful. The tracks were very fast and it was nice navigation. I liked it… »

Al-Tuwaijri said: « It was a fast and easy stage with no risks and no dramas. Tomorrow, I will push more… »

The third round of the Saudi Toyota Championship is being organised by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), in conjunction with the Ministry of Sport, and in alliance with Abdul Latif Jameel (ALJ) Motors Toyota as the official partner and strategic partner Saudi Investment Bank (SAIB). The event is running under the supervision of SAMF President H.R.H. Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal.

Saturday’s action will take place over a shorter Al Mithnab stage of 121km with the first motorcycle starting the timed section at 07.05hrs and the first car at 08.35hrs.

Rally Qassim Toyota 2023 – positions after SS1 – unofficial (top 20 only)
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux (T1P), 1hr 34min 42sec
2. Lucas Moraes (BRA)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Toyota Hilux (T1P), 1hr 37min 23sec
3. Saleh Al-Alabdulali (SAU)/Mohammed Al-Naim (SAU) Toyota Hilux, 1hr 41min 46sec
4. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Michael Metge (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 1hr 53min 03sec
5. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Egor Okhotnikov (FIA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 1hr 58min 16sec
6. Khalid Al-Feraihi (SAU)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Nissan, 1hr 59min 25sec
7. Faris Al-Moshna (SAU)/Khalid Al-Bakr (SAU) Nissan, 1hr 59min 44sec
8. Abdullah Al-Haydan (SAU)/Bader Al-Ajmi (KWT) Nissan, 2hr 00min 45sec
9. Al-Mashna Al-Ramali (SAU)/Mazen Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan, 2hr 01min 50sec
10. Rashid Al-Ketbi (ARE)/Ali Mirza (ARE) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 2hr 03min 17sec
11. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Stéphane Duplé (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 2hr 03min 40sec
12. Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh (SAU)/Omar Al-Lahim (SAU) Nissan, 2hr 06min 55sec
13. Mohammed Asiri (SAU)/Suleiman Al-Oraini (SAU) Nissan (T2), 2hr 07min 18sec
14. Hamad Al-Harbi (SAU)/Aleksandr Alekseev (FIA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 2hr 07min 20sec
15. Khaled Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Fahad Al-Omar (SAU) Nissan (T2), 2hr 08min 19sec
16. Owaid Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Ayidh Al-Harbi (SAU) Nissan, 2hr 09min 29sec
17. Fahad Al-Marmash (SAU)/Yazeed Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan, 2hr 09min 52sec
18. Abdullah Al-Sanad (SAU)/Abdullatif Al-Sanad (SAU) Nissan (T2), 2hr 09min 53sec
19. Majed Al-Thunayyan (SAU)/Aleksei Kuzmich (ARE) Nissan (T2), 2hr 16min 38sec
20. Maha Al-Hameli (SAU)/Oriol Mena (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4), 2hr 19min 07sec
T1 unless stated

1. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) KTM 450, 2hr 19min 41sec
2. Anass Al-Rahyani (SAU) KTM, 2hr 22min 56sec
3. Martin Chalmers (QAT) Beta 430RR, 2hr 26min 23sec
4. Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera (SAU) KTM, 2hr 26min 50sec
5. Marwan Al-Rahmani (ARE) KTM, 2hr 27min 10sec
6. Bader Al-Hamdan (SAU) Yamaha WR450 F, 2hr 28min 42sec
7. Ehab Al-Hakeem (SAU) Yamaha WR450 F, 2hr 36min 43sec
8. Hamdan Al-Ali (ARE) Husqvarna, 2hr 36min 48sec
9. Philip Horlemann (ARE) Husqvarna, 2hr 46min 40sec 10. Bader Al-Bader (SAU) KTM, 2hr 50min 00sec
11. Ibrahim Bugla (ARE) Husqvarna, 3hr 00min 53sec
12. Gerard Lubbinge (QAT) KTM, 3hr 12min 46sec

1. Haitham Al-Tuwaijri (SAU) Yamaha, 2hr 42min 23sec
2. Emiel Stuckens (QAT) Yamaha, 2hr 43min 21sec
3. Abdulaziz Al-Atawi (SAU) Yamaha, 3hr 01min 14sec
4. Hani Al-Noumesi (SAU) Yamaha, 3hr 08min 23sec
5. Abdulrahman Alabdullatif (SAU) Yamaha TRXX 700, 13hr 28min 48sec
6. Maya Tamime (TUN) Honda, 14hr 50min 28sec

Neil Perkins,