Hail Toyota In ternational Rally 2024 gets underway with ceremonial start and prologue in Hail on Thursday afrernoon

The Hail Toyota International Rally 2024 (Saudi Baja) gets underway from the Maghwat conference centre in the city of Hail on Thursday afternoon.

Organised by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), it will signal the start of the 2024 FIA World and Middle East Cups, the FIM Bajas World Cup and the first event in a new Saudi Toyota Rally Championship. The SAMF has already announced a quality field of 42 cars, 25 motorcycles and six quads and competitors from 24 nations will compete for glory over the three days.

A further 24 Saudi and Emirati crews are entered in the Saudi National Baja that will run behind the FIA and FIM events under the chairmanship of H.R.H. Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, President of the SAMF.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia first hosted a motorsport event in Hail back in 2006 and from the acorn of that first national status event, which was won by Farhan Ghaleb Al-Shammeri and Bandar Al-Sandan in a Toyota Land Cruiser, oak trees have grown and flourished.

The country now hosts the world-famous Dakar Rally, a round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, Formula E, international endurance and circuit racing and has its own national championships across several motor sporting disciplines.

In the car category, Yazeed Al-Rajhi has won either the longer international rally or the Baja
six times and tops the car section this weekend in his Toyota Hilux. The Riyadh driver is the defending Saudi Toyota national rally champion and heads an Ultimate (formerly T1 and T1+) group that includes his Overdrive Racing team-mates Dania Akeel, Juan Cruz Yacopini and Rokas Baciuška and Portugal’s João Ferreira in an X-Raid Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus.

Saleh Al-Saif is the most successful driver in the history of the Challenger (formerly T3) category. He teams up with Qatar’s Nasser Al-Kuwari to try and repeat the two victories he achieved with the late Laurent Lichtleuchter in 2020 and with Egor Okhotnikov and Al-Kuwari in 2021 and 2023.

Al-Saif’s main international competition comes from the South Racing Can-Am Team’s Diego Martinez, Santag Racing’s João Dias, the X-Raid Yamaha duo of Germany’s Annett Quandt and Hungary’s Pal Lonyai and Spaniard Eduardo Pons. Local drivers Hamad Al-Harbi, Maha Al-Hamali and Abdullah Al-Haydan are also chasing Challenger glory.

No former winner of the SSV (formerly T4) category is present this year and a new winner will come from a strong field that includes the Quaddy Racing trio of Amerigo Ventura, Ahmed Al-Kuwari and Abdullah Al-Khelaifi, SRT’s Meshari Al-Thefiri and South Racing’s Fernando Alvarez.

The Saudi trio of Ahmed Al-Shegawi, Ibrahim Bensahman and Majed Al-Thunayyan will fight for honours in the Stock (formerly T2) category for series production cross-country machines.

Mohammed Al-Balooshi is chasing a fourth victory in the motorcycle category that was first introduced into the Hail International Rally in 2013. Victory on that occasion fell to the Emirati rider Khalid Al-Falaisi on his Honda CRF 450X.

Al-Balooshi is chasing FIM Bajas World Cup glory against the likes of his brother Sultan, Pedro Bianchi Prata, Andrew Houlihan and Barry Howe. An impressive international list of riders also includes Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Shatti, Jordan’s Abdullah Abu Aisheh, Bahrain’s Salman Farhan, Simon Marcic from Slovenia and Qatar-based Australian Martin Chalmers.

The quad category was also introduced in Hail for the first time in 2013 and victory went to Atif Al-Zarouni on a Honda. The Emirati is competing in the SSV category this year and the quad battle will be fought out between six Saudi riders on five Yamahas and a Can-Am Renegade. Haitham Al-Tuwaijri has won the event for the last two years and starts as the favourite on his Yamaha Raptor 700.

Technical scrutineering took place today (Wednesday) in advance of the ceremonial start at the scenic Maghwat conference facility from 13.30hrs on Thursday. This precedes a six-kilometre Prologue stage, which starts nearby at 15.00hrs, and will determine the starting order for Friday’s opening stage through the An-Nafud desert.

Hail Toyota International Rally 2024 (Saudi Baja) – leading entries:
200. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) – Toyota Hilux Overdrive*
201. João Ferreira (PRT)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT) – Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus*
202. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) – Toyota Hilux Overdrive*
203. Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) – Toyota Hilux Overdrive*
204. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Stéphane Duplé (FRA) – Toyota Hilux Overdrive+
205. Aliyyah Koloc (SYC)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) – Red-Lined Revo+
207. Abdulla Al-Rabban (QAT)/Ali Hassan Obaid (ARE) – Chevrolet Proto+
208. Motab Saud Al-Qnon (SAU)/Waleed Al-Shegawi (SAU) – Nissan Patrol+
209. Salem Al-Dhafeeri (KWT)/Arif Yousef Mohammed (ARE) – Nissan Patrol+
210. Nasser Al-Ajmi (KWT)/Fares Al-Thefiri (KWT) – Nissan Patrol+
211. Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri (SAU)/Yasser Al-Hajjaj (SAU)  – Nissan Patrol
214. Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh (SAU)/Omar Al-Lahim (SAU) – Nissan Patrol+

300. Hamad Al-Harbi (SAU)/Aleksei Kuzmich (ARE) – Can-Am Maverick X3+
301. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) – G Rally Team OT3+
302. Diego Martinez (ARG)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) – Can-Am Maverick X3*
303. Annett Quandt (DEU)/Annie Seel (SWE) – Yamaha YXZ 1000R Turbo
304. Khalid Al-Jafla (ARE)/Andrei Rudnitski (LTU) – Can-Am Maverick X3*
305. Eduardo Pons (ESP)/Jaume Betriu (ESP) – Taurus T3 Max*
306. João Dias (BRA)/João Ferriera (PRT) – Can-Am Maverick X3*
307. Pal Lonyai (HUN)/Dmytro Tsyro (UKR) – Yamaha YXZ 1000R Turbo
308. Maha Al-Hamali (SAU)/Oriol Mena (ESP) – Can-Am Maverick X3+
309. Bradley Salazar (ECU)/Marco Guerron Coronel (ECU) – Can-Am Maverick X3*
310. Abdullah Al-Haydan (SAU)/Bader Al-Ajmi (SAU) – Can-Am Maverick X3+
311. Gunter Hinkelmann (BRA)/Nicolas Falloux (FRA) – Taurus T3 Max

400. Amerigo Ventura (ITA)/Mirko Brun (ITA) – Yamaha YXZ 1000 R*
401. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Mubarak Al-Dhafeeri (KWT) – Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR+
402. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) – Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR*
403. Abdullah Al-Shegawi (SAU)/Aleksandr Alekseev (ANA) – Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR+
404. Ahmed Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Manuel Lucchese (ITA) – Yamaha YXZ 1000 R SS+
405. Abdullah Al-Khulaifi (QAT)/Abdulaziz Al-Jabri (QAT) – Yamaha YXZ 1000 R SS+
406. Saeed Al-Mouri (SAU)/Fahad Al-Amr (SAU) – Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR+
407. Luis Henderson (URY)/Bruno Jacomy (ARG) – Polaris RZR Pro R*
408. Alexander Boquoi (ESP)/Pedro Chaves (ESP) – Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR*
409. Ibrahim Al-Muhanna (SAU)/Faisal Al-Suwayh (SAU) – Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR*
410. Bader Al-Barrak (SAU)/Marco Piana (FRA) – Polaris RZR Pro R
411. Moaaz Al-Hariri (SAU)/Tariq Al-Rammah (SAU) – Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR+
412. Tullio Versace (ITA)/Corrado Ughetti (ITA) – Polaris RZR Pro R
415. Mathilda Lauwens (FRA)/Syndiely Wade (FRA) – Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR+
416. Atif Al-Zarouni (ARE)/Mohammed Innab (SAU) – Yamaha YXZ 1000 R+
*denotes registered for FIA World Cup
+ denotes registered for FIA Middle East Cup

1. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) – KTM Rally Replica
2. Pedro Bianchi Prata (PRT) – Honda CRF 450RX
3. Abdullah Al-Shatti (KWT) – Husqvarna Rally
4. Andrew Houlihan (AUS) – Husqvarna 450 FR
5. Ehab Al-Hakeem (SAU) – Yamaha WR450 F
6. Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera (SAU) – KTM 450 CC
7. Barry Howe (GBR) – Husqvarna FE
8. Sultan Al-Balooshi (ARE) – Husqvarna Rally
9. Bader Al-Hamdan (SAU) – Yamaha WR450 F
10. Ahmed Al-Jaber (SAU) – KTM 450 CC

100. Haitham Al-Tuwaijri (SAU) – Yamaha Raptor 700
101. Hani Al-Noumesi (SAU) – Yamaha Raptor 700
102. Abdulaziz Al-Atawi (SAU) – Yamaha Raptor 700
103. Abdulrahman Alabdullatif (SAU) – Can-Am Renegade 800
104. Abdulaziz Al-Shammeri (SAU) – Yamaha Raptor 700
105. Abdulaziz Al-Shayban (SAU) – Yamaha Raptor 700

Neil Perkins,