ABHA: Toyota Hilux driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz lead a 42-car field into this weekend’s Rally Aseer 2022, the opening round of the 2022 Saudi Toyota Rally Championship.
Von Zitzewitz replaces Al-Rajhi’s usual co-driver Michael Orr, who is still recovering from a fractured fibula that he sustained at Baja Poland earlier this month.
The event, which is based out of the city of Abha in the Kingdom’s southwest, is being organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation in conjunction with the Ministry of Sport, Saudi Motorsport Marshals Club and the Saudi Motorsport Company, in partnership with Abdul Latif Jameel Motors Toyota.
The series ran for the first time in 2019 and Al-Rajhi sealed the inaugural title at the Sharqiya Baja that year.
This event marks the return of the Saudi Toyota Rally Championship to the Saudi Arabian motor sporting calendar after a two-year absence and is the first of four rounds being organized by the SAMF.
Subsequent rounds of the series will be Rally Qassim (Oct. 12-14), the Ha’il Baja (Nov. 10-12) and the Jeddah Rally (Dec. 15-17).
Al-Rajhi is a multiple winner of cross-country events in his home country and starts as the favorite to win this weekend. His closest rival is likely to be Czech veteran Miroslav Zapletal and his Slovakian co-driver Marek Sykora in the former’s self-built Ford F-150 Evo.
A total of 23 cars have been entered in the T1 category, with further competition likely from a host of Saudi drivers, including Muneef Al-Salmani, Khalid Al-Feraihi, Mutair, Sami and Al-Mashna Al-Shammeri and Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, the latter taking part with Peruvian co-driver Hector Garcia.
Thirteen Saudi drivers line up in the FIA T2 section for series-production cross-country vehicles, and the likely front-runners include Ahmed Al-Shegawi, Jafar Al-Qahtani and Khalid Al-Hamazani.
The experienced Saleh Al-Saif makes a switch from international competition to top the FIA T3 section in his Black Horse Can-Am Maverick X3. He teams up with Spain’s Oriol Vidal and faces competition from Dania Akeel (Can-Am) and her Uruguayan navigator Sergio Lafuente and a pair of Al-Shegawi Racing machines in the hands of Hamad Al-Harbi and Abdullah Al-Shegawi.
Drifting specialist and regular cross-country rally driver Saeed Al-Mouri teams up with Jordanian co-driver Ata Al-Hmoud to head the FIA T4 section in his Can-Am. Al-Mouri faces a duel with Saudi Arabia’s Maha Al-Hamali for T4 honors. The female Can-Am driver has recruited the services of Spain’s Maria de Los Angeles as her co-driver.
Rally Aseer 2022 is being run under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and supervision of former FIA Middle East rally champion Abdullah Bakhashab.
Competitive action will take place over two selective sections at altitude on Friday and Saturday with 372.19 competitive kilometers in a total route of 769.10 km. The opening 183.83 km stage is split into two sections and runs between Al-Ghadah and Al-Qaah on Friday, with the longer second stage of 188.36 km passing between Tareeb and Al-Qaah.