Al-Rajhi pulls clear of Baciuska ans Ferreira to lead Hail Toyota International Rally

– Mohammed Al-Balooshi and Haitham Al-Tuwaijri on top in bikes and quads
– Challenger lead for Saleh Al-Saif; Fernando Alvarez tops SSV category

Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk clocked a time of 2hr 45min 58sec for the demanding 302km opening stage of the Hail Toyota International Rally 2024 (Saudi Baja) and duly moved into the lead on Friday afternoon.

The varied special meandered its way through the An-Nafud desert from a start at the village of Qina to the northwest of Hail and the Toyota Hilux driver managed to finish 4min 10sec quicker than his Overdrive Racing team-mates Rokas Baciuška and Oriol Vidal. Portugal’s João Ferreira and Filipe Palmeiro were third quickest, a further 1min 57sec adrift, in their X-Raid Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus.

Al-Rajhi said: « It was a good day. We did it well. Me and Timo overtake the other cars and then we opened the stage. It was not easy. In some places the navigation was difficult. But everything was going well for us. That’s the most important and we are in the lead. »

Argentina’s Juan Cruz Yacopini guided the third of the Overdrive Toyotas to fourth overall on the three-day event being hosted by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) as the opening round of the FIA World and Middle East Baja Cups.

Multiple former T3 winner Saleh Al-Saif set a stunning time to top the standings in the Challenger category in his G Rally Team OT3. The Saudi stormed into fifth overall and led the section by 9min 33sec from Santag Racing’s sixth-placed João Dias in his Can-Am Maverick. Prologue winner Meshari Al-Thefiri lost over two hours with damaged suspension arms on his Can-Am and plummeted out of contention for victory.

Dubai-based Alliyah Koloc delivered a strong stage performance in her Red-lined Revo+ and was classified in seventh and second of the drivers registered for the FIA Middle East Baja Cup behind Al-Saif.

The experienced Fernando Alvarez is competing in the SSV category this season with Xavier Panseri in a South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR and the Spaniard climbed through the field to hold eighth overall and a comfortable cushion over 10th-placed Spaniard Alexander Toril Boquoi in the SSV section.

Saudi female driver Dania Akeel started the stage well down the running order after delays on the Prologue but she climbed to ninth place on her first true desert stage in an Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux.

Mohammed Al-Balooshi called upon all his experience of the desert to hit the front and win the day’s stage on two wheels on the opening round of the FIM Bajas World Cup. The MX Dubai rider reached the finish of a difficult special 2min 02sec in front of Kuwaiti team-mate Abdullah Al-Shatti to edge into an overall lead of 4min 10sec.

Al-Balooshi said: « It was a very long day and a very technical stage with a lot of navigation. You needed to be on top of your game. For me, the strategy was to start behind Pedro Bianchi but I was surprised that I caught him so soon. From km40, I opened most of the stage from there. I am really happy that me and my team-mate Abdullah Al-Shatti finished first and second. Now I need to recover for tomorrow. »

Saudi Arabian KTM rider Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera was third across the finish line and the Prologue-winning Jordanian Abdullah Abu Aisheh came home in fifth and held fourth overall.

Emirati Hamdan Al-Ali benefitted from starting further down the running order and moved up from 13th to fifth place, while Spaniard Pedro Bianchi Prata was seventh behind the German Open class rider Philip Horlemann.

Haitham Al-Tuwaijri continued to dominate the quad category on his Yamaha Raptor 700. Another stage win catapulted the Saudi into a 21min 38sec lead over Hani Al-Noumesi. Abdulaziz Al-Shayban holds third.

Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh (Nissan) moved ahead of closest rival Khaled Al-Shammeri in the Saudi National Baja where drivers are scoring points towards the four-round Saudi Toyota Rally Championship.

Tomorrow (Saturday), competitors tackle a shorter second stage of 164km that starts at Shut at 07.15hrs (first motorcycle) and precedes the evening’s post-Baja press conference and prize giving ceremony (19.30hrs onwards).

Hail Toyota International Rally 2024 (Saudi Baja) – Positions after SS1
Cars (top 28 only)
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 2hr 45min 58sec*
2. Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 2hr 50min 08sec*
3. João Ferreira (PRT)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT) Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus, 2hr 52min 05sec*
4. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 2hr 57min 08sec*
5. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) G Rally Team OT3, 3hr 01min 04sec+
6. João Dias (BRA)/João Miranda (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3, 3hr 10min 37sec*
7. Aliyyah Koloc (ARE)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Red-Lined Revo+, 3hr 14min 00sec+
8. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 3hr 18min 04sec*
9. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Stéphane Duplé (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 3hr 23min 42sec+
10. Alexander Toril Boquoi (ESP)/Pedro Chaves (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 3hr 28min 56sec*
11. Diego Martinez (ARG)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) Can-Am Maverick X3, 3hr 30min 02sec*
12. Gunter Hinkelmann (BRA)/Nicolas Falloux (FRA) Taurus T3 Max, 3hr 32min 30sec
13. Pal Lonyai (HUN)/Dmytro Tsyro (UKR) Yamaha YXZ 1000R Turbo, 3hr 35min 46sec
14. Ahmed Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Manuel Lucchese (ITA) Yamaha YXZ 1000 R SS, 3hr 37min 11sec+
15. Luis Henderson (URY)/Bruno Jacomy (ARG) Polaris RZR Pro R, 3hr 40min 40sec*
16. Annett Quandt (DEU)/Annie Seel (SWE) Yamaha YXZ 1000R Turbo, 3hr 41min 50sec
17. Hamad Al-Harbi (SAU)/Aleksei Kuzmich (ARE) Can-Am Maverick X3, 3hr 43min 44sec+
18. Atif Al-Zarouni (ARE)/Mohammed Innab (SAU) Yamaha YXZ 1000 R, 3hr 46min 27sec+
19. Bradley Salazar (ECU)/Marco Guerron Coronel (ECU) Can-Am Maverick X3, 3hr 48min 18sec*
20. Maha Al-Hamali (SAU)/Oriol Mena (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3, 3hr 53min 18sec+
21. Moaaz Al-Hariri (SAU)/Tariq Al-Rammah (SAU) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 4hr 04min 18sec+
22. Ibrahim Al-Muhanna (SAU)/Faisal Al-Suwayh (SAU) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 4hr 08min 35sec*
23. Khalid Al-Jafla (ARE)/Andrei Rudnitski (LTU) Can-Am Maverick X3, 4hr 14min 11sec*
24. Bader Al-Barrak (SAU)/Marco Piana (FRA) Polaris RZR Pro R, 4hr 50min 37sec
25. Tullio Versace (ITA)/Corrado Ughetti (ITA) Polaris RZR Pro R, 4hr 52min 41sec
26. Abdullah Al-Shegawi (SAU)/Aleksandr Alekseev (KGZ) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 4hr 53min 14sec+
27. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Michael Metge (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 4hr 54min 28sec+
28. Amerigo Ventura (ITA)/Mirko Brun (ITA) Yamaha YXZ 1000 R, 5hr 01min 21sec*
*registered for FIA World Baja Cup
+registered for FIA Middle East Baja Cup

Bikes (top 16 only)
1. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) KTM Rally Replica, 4hr 40min 40sec
2. Abdullah Al-Shatti (KWT) Husqvarna Rally, 4hr 44min 50sec
3. Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera (SAU) KTM 450 CC, 4hr 58min 21sec
4. Abdullah Abu Aisheh (JOR) GasGas MC 450, 5hr 00min 53sec
5. Hamdan Al-Ali (ARE) Husqvarna FE450, 5hr 01min 28sec
6. Philip Horlemann (DEU) Husqvarna FE501 (Open), 5hr 12min 34sec
7. Pedro Bianchi Prata (PRT) Honda CRF 450RX, 5hr 14min 14sec
8. Salman Farhan (BHR) Husqvarna FE, 5hr 24min 37sec
9. Martin Chalmers (AUS) GasGas 450 Rally Replica, 5hr 27min 59sec
10. Eid Rafic (LBN) Husqvarna FE450, 5hr 32min 09sec
11. Andrew Houlihan (AUS) Husqvarna 450 FR, 5hr 32min 19sec
12. Ehab Al-Hakeem (SAU) Yamaha WR450 F, 5hr 38min 03sec
13. Ahmed Al-Jaber (SAU) KTM 450 CC, 6hr 10min 05sec
14. Jason Paul Joslin (GBR) Husqvarna FE, 6hr 49min 36sec
15. Anass Al-Rihayani (SAU) KTM RX, 12hr 45min 44sec
16. Bader Al-Hamdan (SAU) Yamaha WR450 F, 12hr 47min 12sec

1. Haitham Al-Tuwaijri (SAU) Yamaha Raptor 700, 5hr 11min 32sec
2. Hani Al-Noumesi (SAU) Yamaha Raptor 700, 5hr 43min 10sec
3. Abdulaziz Al-Shayban (SAU) Yamaha Raptor 700, 5hr 52min 23sec
4. Abdulaziz Al-Atawi (SAU) Yamaha Raptor 700, ` 6hr 23min 58sec
5. Abdulrahman Alabdullatif (SAU) Can-Am Renegade 800, 13hr 03min 28sec