BURAIDAH: A staggering entry of 63 cars, 1 truck, 18 motorcycles and 8 quads will tackle this weekend’s Rally Qassim 2019, the second round of the exciting new Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship.
There is strength in depth throughout the entire car field and the three T1, T2 and T3 categories, with Saudi Arabia’s leading cross-country star Yazeed Al-Rajhi topping the entry after finishing fifth overall at last week’s Rally of Morocco.
Fellow Saudi Yasir Seaidan wheels out his MINI All4 Racing, as the two leading Saudi stars go head-to-head across home terrain. Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi is also on hand to challenge for overall honors in a Peugeot 3008 DXR.
There is a strong Saudi influence in the upper reaches of the top 10 with the likes of Essa Al-Dossari, Ahmed Al-Shegawi and Mutair Al-Shammeri, but there is an international flavor to the entry as well, with several drivers keen to test before the Dakar Rally crosses the country for the first time in January 2020.
Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal wheels out his Ford F-150 Evo, Egyptian Yara Shalaby has entered a Nissan and there are entries for Kuwait’s Mohammed Al-Dhafiri and Emirati Abdullah Al-Heraiz.
Saleh Al-Saif tops a strong lineup in the T3 category at the helm of his Can-Am Maverick X3 and faces 12 Saudi rivals – three in Yamahas, one in a Polaris and eight in Can-Ams.
Ibrahim Al-Muhanna won the Hail International Rally back in 2014 with Emirati navigator Ali Hassan Obaid and he drives the sole T4 Mercedes truck, with Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb alongside.
Using the event as a perfect opportunity to shake down his KTM 450 Rally after the recent Jordan Baja win is the Emirati racer Mohammed Al-Balooshi.
He leads an 18-strong motorcycle field that includes other riders from the host country, New Zealand and the UK.
Philip Wilson represents New Zealand, Anthony King is the sole UK entrant, while Emirati Abdullah bin Dakhan rides a Yamaha against a field that includes 14 Saudi riders.
Multiple Hail International Rally winner Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi tops the quad category on his Yamaha.
The Saudi has won the Kingdom’s premier off-road rally’s quad section for the last six successive seasons — three times on a Kawasaki and three times on a Yamaha - but faces some of his strongest ever competition in Buraidah.
He lines up against the likes of the experienced Sultan Al-Masoud, Abdulsalam Hamam and Yousef Al-Namasi.
The event is organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, and takes place from Thursday to Saturday.
It is the second of five rounds of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship with three further rallies still to run this year on Nov. 4-9, Nov. 27-30 and Dec. 12-14 .
Action at Rally Qassim 2019 gets underway with a short super special stage of 3.55km from 16:10hrs at Wahtan in Buraidah on Thursday afternoon. There will be 347.80km timed against the clock in a compact route of 548.80km.
The event runs with the support of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, the General Sports Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group and Al-Arabia.