RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi ceded eight seconds to French rival Stephane Peterhansel on the third 160 km selective section of the Riyadh Rally, but held on to guide his Toyota Hilux to victory and the outright lead in the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship on Saturday.
Peterhansel and stand-in Portuguese co-pilot Paulo Fuiza won the special in their X-raid Mini JCW Buggy to finish the event just 46 seconds behind the local driver and his Ulster co-driver Michael Orr in what was a useful Dakar Rally shakedown for the 13-time winner of the world’s most challenging off-road rally.
Yasir Seaidan completed the last competitive section through the dunes and sandy wastelands of the Saad National Park 45 seconds behind Al-Rajhi in the second of the Mini JCW Buggies and maintained the pressure on his rival in the championship with the final place on the podium.
ED Racing’s Essa Al-Dossari enjoyed a strong finish to the event with the fourth-fastest time in his Nissan Navara to secure a similar position in the overall standings.
Czech Miroslav Zapletal rounded off the top five in his Ford F-150 Evo after dropping time to the leading quartet in the last timed section.
Mutair Al-Shammeri brought his Nissan home in a distant sixth place and Faris Al-Moshna Al-Shammeri, Sami and Al-Mashna Al-Shammeri and Khalid Al-Feraihi rounded off the top 10.
Salman Al-Shammeri finished in 14th overall and won the T2 category for series-production cross-country vehicles by 12 minutes, 37 seconds in his Nissan.
Yousef Al-Suwaidi snatched the runner-up spot from Farhan Al-Muharib with the second-quickest time on the last day.
Yousef Al-Dhaif managed to overhaul Saleh Al-Saif to snatch victory in the NUTV category in his Can-Am. Partnered by French navigator Laurent Lichtleuchter, the Saudi took advantage of serious delays for his rival to pip Majed Al-Tuwaijri to the win.
Khalil Al-Tuwaijri made it a Can-Am 1-2-3 with third place. Shaker Al-Tuwaijri was the sole representative in the official T3 section with his Can-Am.
Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Balooshi stormed through to win the motorcycle category on his KTM, the experienced veteran of numerous regional and international cross-country events following up his success at the recent Rally Qassim and Jordan Baja with a winning margin of 2 minutes, 11 seconds over his brother Sultan.
Friday’s leader Mishal Alghuneim lost out on the win after opening the road and the Saudi slipped to third place, while the stage win helped Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Shatti secure fourth. Local rider Hashyan Al-Hashyan and Kiwi Philip Wilson rounded off the top six.
Sufyan Al-Omar claimed the stage win to secure a comfortable success in the quad category.
The Saudi headed a Yamaha 1-2-3 with Abdulrahman Alaglaa and Abdulaziz Al-Shayban filling the other podium places.
Sultan Al-Masoud retired, but pre-event favorite Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi recovered from his previous day’s woes to set the second quickest time on the last stage.
The Saudi trio of Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb were running at the rear of the field in their Mercedes truck entered in the T4 category.
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 supervision of former FIA Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab.
It ran with the support of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, the General Sport Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia outdoors, and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.