ALULA: Recent Rally Qassim winner Yazeed Al-Rajhi heads a quality field of 59 cars, one truck, nine motorcycles and seven quads into this weekend’s AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally, the third round of the exciting new Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship.
Organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and the supervision of former FIA Middle East, champion Abdullah Bakhashab, the event gets underway 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
The Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux driver and Michael Orr will be joined in the northwest of the Kingdom by two-time former FIA Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso in a second Hilux.
Competition in the T1 category will be fierce with fellow Saudi Yasir Seaidan wheeling out his MINI All4 Racing and Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi continuing his pre-Dakar Rally preparations with French co-driver Xavier Panseri in a Peugeot 2008.
Ahmed Al-Shegawi and former Ha’il Rally winner Essa Al-Dossari lead the Nissan T1 challenge, while experienced Czech cross-country driver Miroslav Zapletal will drive his self-designed Ford F-150 Evo.
The remainder of the massive car entry is made up largely of Saudi drivers in a variety of Nissan and Toyota derivatives. Names on the list include Mutair Al-Shammeri, Khalid Al-Feraihi and Mutab Al-Qunoon, while the top guns in the TL2 category for series production cross-country vehicles include Salman Al-Shammeri and Yousef Al-Suwaidi.
Saleh Al-Saif heads the T3 category in his Can-Am, and faces 11 challengers categorized in the NUTV class. These include the Can-Ams of Khalil Al-Twijri, Yousef Al-Dhaif and Zakariya Al-Tuwijri, the Yamaha of Hamad Al-Harbi, and Mohammed Alabdulali in a Polaris. Ibrahim Al-Muhanna is the sole entrant in the TL4 class in a Mercedes truck.
Rally Qassim quad winner Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi tops his category, and faces competition from the likes of Sultan Al-Masoud and Riyadh Al-Orafan.
Mishal Alghuneim heads the two-wheel section on his KTM in the absence of the UAE’s Mohammed Al-Balooshi and Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Shatti. The only non-Saudi rider is the UK’s Anthony King.
The AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally will take place over four competitive sections and finishes in Neom on Saturday, Nov. 9.
Teams will tackle two timed sections (AlUla 1 and 2) of 211.68 kilometers on Wednesday and Thursday, a stage of 231 kilometers from AlUla to Neom through the village of Abu Gazaz on Friday, and the final revised selective section of around 175 kilometers on Saturday.
It runs with the support of SAMF, the General Sport Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.