HAIL: Saudi driver Saleh Alabdelali and Norwegian navigator Ole Floene won the 15th Hail Nissan Rally with the second quickest time on the fourth 181-km selective section of the event through the An Nafud Desert on Saturday.
The Hummer driver began the stage near Gazala with an overall lead of 12min 52sec and was able to steer clear of trouble to earn the biggest result of his career in his Yazeed Racing Team car.
Pre-race favorite Yazeed Al-Rajhi and co-driver Michael Orr suffered a major setback with a component failure on day two, but Al-Rajhi hit back strongly to claim another fastest time on the last stage with a time of 1hr 29min 47sec at the finish, near Shatieb.
Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal and his Slovakian navigator Marek Sykora guided their Ford F-150 Evo to the runner-up spot, 12min 57sec behind the winning Hummer, to collect a valuable haul of points at the start of the 2020 Saudi Desert Championship.
Alabdelali said: “Today’s stage was very fast, very rough and there were a lot of stones. Like the previous stages, it needed a lot of navigational skills. After 40 km, I had a puncture and lost a couple of minutes. Then I pushed to regain the minutes that I had lost. I was sure that Zapletal was going to push and try his best to win the stage today. Any small problem would have cost me the rally. In the end, Zapletal was not able to gain any advantage, so I am extremely happy to have won the rally. I am happy for Yazeed Racing.”
Al-Mushanna and Mazen Al-Shammeri displaced Mutair and Hani Al-Shammeri in the battle of the Nissans for third place. Saleh Al-Saif and Yasser Al-Shammeri held on to fifth to confirm victory in the T3 category.
Muneef Al-Salmani confirmed sixth overall in his Nissan, Abdullah Al-Shegawi finished in seventh and Sami Al-Shammeri was eighth.
Khaled Al-Hamazani pipped Salman Al-Shammeri to victory in the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles and Khalil Al-Tuwaijri topped the T4 standings from Fahad Al-Naim.
Ibrahim Al-Muhanna and his faithful crew of Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb were the sole entrants in the T5 truck section in their Mercedes.
Mohammed Al-Balooshi took a 3min 06sec lead over his brother Sultan into the last stage and the Emirati KTM duo held on second a one-two finish for the Al-Balooshi family, Mohammed winning the rally by 6min 05sec. Saudi Arabia’s Ahmed Al-Nasser finished a distant third.
Sulfyan Al-Omar began the final stage with a 13-second lead over Riyadh Al-Oraifan in the quad section but Al-Oraifan won the stage to clinch victory by the margin of 6min 47sec. Sultan Al-Masoud, Abdul Aziz Al-Shayban and Ahmed Al-Harbi rounded off the top five.
The rally was 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 was held under the patronage of Hail Gov. Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saad bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud and Prince Faisal bin Fahd.
Prince Khalid said: “The achievement of organizing the Hail International Rally as a candidate for next year’s FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies will add more responsibilities on us to develop the event and preserve the reputation of this rally. This rally has become a platform for Saudis to participate in international events within the 2030 Vision reform plan. We are hopeful that we will be up to these responsibilities. Thanks to the efforts made by all respected authorities in Hail for the success of this sporting event, which has become an annual gathering for desert rallying enthusiasts.”