HAIL: Saudi driver Saleh Alabdelali and Norwegian navigator Ole Floene maintained a comfortable overall advantage of 12min 52sec after the third 254km selective section of the 15th Hail Nissan Rally on Friday.
On a stage near Umm Al-Ghalban, where Yazeed Al-Rajhi and co-driver Michael Orr returned to action to claim the fastest stage time after their wheel issues on day two, Alabdelali finished the special with the seventh quickest time to maintain his useful lead over Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal and his Slovakian navigator Marek Sykora.
Orr explained their issues on day two. “We just had a small failure with a part on the rear of the car. We tried to continue but eventually everything was broken and the wheel fell off and it was impossible to continue after that,” he said. “It was nice to drive today and maybe we can still win some points for the championship. We can also make some good tests. We are changing the setup every day. The stage started on fast gravel roads … and the last 170 km was sandy tracks and some tricky navigation.”
Khaled Al-Feraihi and his French co-driver Sebastien Delaunay were second fastest on the day and Mutair Al-Shammeri came home in third to maintain a similar position in the rankings.
Alabdelali said: “I think today was important for the co-driver. I lost 12 minutes but I got back on the route and after that I finished and still have a good lead to take into the final day.”
Al-Mushanna Al-Shammeri managed to overhaul Saleh Al-Saif to snatch fourth place, but Al-Saif had the consolation of the lead in the T3 category. Muneef Al-Salmani sustained a puncture on his Nissan but was feeling better after an illness on day two and reached Hail City in sixth. Abdullah Al-Shegawi also sustained a flat tire but the son of Saudi veteran Ahmed Al-Shegawi held seventh place.
Khaled Al-Hamazani maintained his advantage in the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles and Khalil Al-Tuwaijri topped the T4 standings from Fahad Al-Naim.
The UAE’s Sultan and Mohammed Al-Balooshi continued their duel for motorcycle honors with Mohammed claiming the stage win to extend his lead from three seconds to 3min 06sec. The KTM duo are a class of the field and Saudi Arabia’s Ahmed Al-Nasser is a distant third. Anas Al-Ruhyani was badly delayed and lost third place in the overall standings.
Riyadh Al-Oraifan won the stage in the quad section to reduce Sufyan Al-Omar’s advantage to just 13 seconds heading into the final stage on Saturday. Abdul Aziz Al-Shayban and Sultan Al-Masoud are third and fourth overall.
The rally is being organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal and the supervision of the Hail Regional Development Authority, in cooperation with the General Authority for Tourism and National Heritage and the General Authority for Sport.
The rally is being held under the patronage of Hail Gov. Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saad bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud and Prince Faisal bin Fahd.
The final stage takes place on Saturday in the An Nafud Desert.