The Saudi Arabian Toyota Land Cruiser crew of Khalaf Joan Al-Shammeri and Joan Al-Shammeri were the unofficial new leaders of the FIA-sanctioned Ha’il International Rally, Saudi Arabia’s premier off-road motor sport event, after the fourth selective section across the An Nafud desert on Wednesday.
Third overall at the start of the day, the Saudis inherited the outright lead when the UAE’s Khalid Al-Jafla stopped with technical issues. Khalaf Joan reached the stage finish with the unofficial ninth quickest time and that was sufficient to take a slender lead over Owaid Mansi and Hamad Nasser in another Toyota.
Wednesday’s fourth leg offered 256.55km of desert competition for the cars in a route of 485.41km and 104.45km for the bikes, which started an hour after the cars.
Rajeh Al-Shammeri was the form driver through the first two passage controls and he had built up a virtual stage lead of 1m 05sec over Mutair Al-Shammeri by PC2.
Overnight leader Khalid Al-Jafla incurred a 33-minute penalty at the overnight halt and still led the event by 17min 42sec at the restart. He left Ha’il second on the road in his Chevrolet Buggy, but the Emirati had lost 14 minutes by PC1 and then stopped in the stage for over an hour and lost his outright lead trying to fix a technical problem, before stopping again.
Built in Dubai, his Buggy was designed around the concept of a T3 Polaris RZR and evolved into a two-wheel drive Buggy with a Chevrolet LS1 and PBS transaxle. The car now runs with a Chevrolet LFX 3.6-litre V6 engine and an Albins transaxle in the T1 class.
Rajeh Al-Shammeri continued to lead from Ali Al-Kitbi and Mutair Al-Shammeri at the third passage control, although time penalties imposed on Wednesday morning from the previous day’s stage had changed the look of the top 10. Behind Al-Jafla, Owaid Mansi was promoted to second overall and Khalaf Joan Al-Shammeri climbed into third position, ahead of Ahmed Shuhail and Mutair Al-Shammeri.
Rajeh Al-Shammeri, who began the day in 17th overall after first day woes, was the first to cross the finish line and set a target time of 4hr 02min 03sec. But Al-Kitbi was running well from a starting position of ninth overall and 15th on the road and he recorded the fastest time of the day of 4hr 01min 48sec in his Nissan Patrol.
Meshal Al-Khaledi headed the bike contingent into the penultimate stage with an overall lead of 2min 18sec, but it was fifth-placed Ahmed Al-Nasser who took up the running and was quickest at PC1. Al-Nasser held on to claim the stage win with a Honda CRF, but Al-Khaledi extended his unofficial overall lead in the bike and quad categories on his Yamaha.
Majid Al-Jerpiea had stopped on Tuesday’s stage to assist the injured Waleed Khalid Zabeidi, who had fallen in the desert. Al-Jerpiea stayed with his fellow Saudi until the Civil Defence helicopter arrived to ferry the stricken rider to the Khalid hospital for treatment.
This year’s event is being organised by the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF) and is being staged under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Saud Bin Abdul Mohsen Bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Ha’il, President of the Supreme Commission for Ha’il Development and the Head of the Supreme Commission of the Ha’il Rally.
The SAMF runs under the chairmanship of His Royal Highness Prince Sultan Bin Bandar Al-Faisal and the event is being organised in conjunction with the High Authority for the Development of Ha’il.
Tomorrow (Thursday), is the final leg of the event and the cars will tackle a 146.02km selective section between Olehan and Kna’ in a day’s route of 296.59km. The bikes and quads will cross the same stage, but start one hour after the cars. The ceremonial finish will be at the Maghwat Conference Centre.
Positions after leg 3 – Wednesday (unofficial @ 15.48hrs):
1. Khalaf Joan Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Joan Al-Shammeri (SAU) Toyota 12hr 56min 14sec
2. Owaid Mansi (SAU)/Hamad Nasser (SAU) Toyota 12hr 58min 07sec
3. Mutair Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Kamel Al-Shammeri (SAU) Toyota 13hr 21min 36sec
4. Ahmed Al-Shuhail (SAU)/Abdulaziz Ashfour (SAU) Nissan 13hr 31min 35sec
5. Salman Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Rasheed Al-Tiwyawi (SAU) Toyota 13hr 47min 55sec
6. Ibrahim Muhanna (SAU)/Ali Obaid (ARE) Nissan 13hr 50min 28sec
7. Ali Al-Kitbi (ARE)/Rashid Al-Shamsi (ARE) Nissan Patrol 13hr 52min 44sec
8. Niaf Al-Otaibi (SAU)/Fahad Al-Sfiani (SAU) Nissan 14hr 26min 36sec
9. Motab Saud (SAU)/Issa Masoud (SAU) Toyota 14hr 47min 07sec
10. Ahmed Al-Sabban (SAU)/Adel Hussein (QAT) Ford Raptor 14hr 48min 01sec