Al-Rajhi improvises to seal dramatic victory in AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally

Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Konstantin Zhiltsov overcome punctures and power-steering issues to snatch victory. (Supplied)
Updated 10 November 2019

Al-Rajhi improvises to seal dramatic victory in AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally

  • Formula One star Alonso says Neom event ‘gives us confidence for Dakar’

ALULA: Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi improvised and overcame three punctures, power-steering issues and a faulty jack to snatch a dramatic victory in the Al Ula–Neom Cross-Country Rally, round three of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, on Saturday.

Trailing fellow countryman Yasir Seaidan by 1min 14sec at the overnight halt, Al-Rajhi and his Russian navigator Konstantin Zhiltsov guided their Toyota Hilux to the fastest time of 1hr 30min 45sec on the final 175km loop stage around Neom to claim victory by a margin of 2min 09sec. 

With a broken jack, Al-Rajhi managed to hang the car over a roadside drainage pipe to enable the crew to replace a punctured tire during a dramatic morning’s action.

Al-Rajhi said: “The stage today was full of action and we did it well! We lost the first day with a small problem with the wheel nuts, but we pushed every day and today we attacked like hell. We did it well and we won the rally. It’s a nice feeling after all these problems. Konstantin did a great job and we are here with the win.”

Seaidan and French co-driver Francois Cazalet finished as runners-up in a MINI All4 Racing and the Spanish pairing of Formula One star Fernando Alonso and Marc Coma rounded off the podium places with the third fastest time on the final selective section.

Yasir added: “It was an interesting rally but difficult for us. We had many punctures and the last day was difficult navigation. In the end we finished in second place. That is a good result for us and we are still leading the championship with two rounds to go. It was nice to see Fernando Alonso here practicing over the terrain. It was a nice experience to have a world champion with us, for him and for us.”

Alonso said: “It was a good four days preparation for the Dakar and discovering new terrain and new things here. To be third in the final two stages and to be third in the overall is the first podium of my life in rally. It is good that it happened now and gives us confidence
for Dakar.”

Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi had been awarded a 10-minute penalty by rally officials after the third leg for a speeding infringement in a restricted zone, but it mattered little to the Emirati that he had been demoted to fourth place at the overnight halt behind Alonso. 

That was because the former regional rally champion’s engine had developed a serious oil leak and the decision was taken not to continue on Saturday. With Al-Qassimi’s Peugeot 2008 out of the running, ED Racing’s Essa Al-Dossary was able to fend off the challenge from Czech Miroslav Zapletal to claim fourth place in a Nissan Navara with French navigator Sebastien Delaunay.

Saudi Arabia’s Khalid Al-Feraihi and French navigator Stephane Duple climbed to sixth overall in a Nissan Patrol. Mutair Al-Shammeri and Faris Al-Shammeri finished seventh and eighth, Mohammed Al-Tijiwri slipped a place to ninth and Khalaf Al-Shammeri rounded off the top 10.

Salman Al-Shammeri came home in 11th place to confirm top spot in the TL2 category by 32min 27sec and Yousef Al-Suwaidi sealed the win in the T2 section for series production cross-country vehicles from Reda Al-Shammeri. Saleh Al-Saif held on to win TL3.

Yousef Al-Dhaif and French co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter crushed their rivals in the NUTV class, the Can-Am Maverick X3 finishing 41min 23sec in front of the similar car of Majed Al-Tiwijri and Raed Al-Maziad.

KTM rider Mishal Alghuneim dominated the motorcycle category, in which Abdullah Al-Helal finished a very distant second, and Yamaha’s Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi cruised to victory in the quad class by 1hr 24min 48sec. Riyadh Al-Orafan was second and Walid Al-Shegawi rounded off the top three.  

The event was 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.

It was run with the support of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, the General Sports Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.


Saudi female racing driver to make history by becoming first to compete in the Kingdom

Updated 12 November 2019

Saudi female racing driver to make history by becoming first to compete in the Kingdom

DUBAI: Reema Juffali will create history later this month at the Diriyah Circuit as the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete in an international racing series in the Kingdom.

Reema made her competitive racing debut in October last year just months after a watershed moment for the Kingdom that allowed women to drive.

After a string of impressive performances, she will join the official support race for the Diriyah E Prix, the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY series, as the VIP driver for the double header opening weekend at the UNESCO World Heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh.

“I am thrilled to be the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY VIP driver for the first race of season two. I can’t wait to be out on track racing on home soil for the first time,” Reema said.

Reema Juffali will create history later this month at the Diriyah Circuit. (Supplied)

“The series has highlighted the innovation and progress of motorsport, giving more opportunity for men and women to compete together in cool electric racecars. It’s going to be an amazing weekend and I can’t wait to be out on the grid.”

Reema made history by becoming the first Saudi female race license holder to compete in the TRD 86 Cup at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi in October last year, taking second place in the Silver Category and fourth overall. Her previous racing experience also includes the MRF Challenge in India.

“We are so excited to have Reema join us in Diriyah as our VIP driver. Her progress in her first year of single-seater racing is very impressive. To have the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete in an international racing series within the Kingdom is a major milestone for the sport, and one Jaguar Racing are immensely proud to be able to support,” Mark Turner, the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY Series Manager said.

“The Diriyah Circuit has become the home of watershed moments for the Kingdom. We saw the first female drivers here last year, the first unsegregated concerts, and of course it was the first time that Formula E and the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy had raced in Saudi Arabia,” Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Chairman of the GSA, said.

“This year we will again see more inspiring moments which help show the world the journey the Kingdom is on. I am sure Reema will have thousands cheering her on, as a professional racing driver I shall be one of them.”