TABUK: Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Sultan Al-Balooshi and Haitham Al-Tuwaijri set the quickest times in the car, motorcycle and quad categories in front of huge crowds on the Qualifying Stage, held on the outskirts of Tabuk, that kickstarted the weekend’s action in the first Tabuk-Neom Rally on Thursday afternoon.
Al-Rajhi and German co-driver Timo Gottschalk stopped the clocks in 2 min 42 sec to win the 3.5km stage by 43 seconds in their Toyota Hilux. National championship contenders Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh and Khalid Al-Feraihi were second and third.
Khalid Al-Jafla topped the times in the T2 category for lightweight prototype cross-country vehicles, and Maha Al-Hameli won the stage in T4.
The motorcycle times were then multiplied by a coefficient, and quad category winner Haitham Al-Tuwaijri topped the overall stage times on his Yamaha Raptor, with Emirati Sultan Al-Balooshi winning the stage on two wheels from Mishal Al-Ghuneim and his brother Mohammed (Al-Balooshi).
Ibrahim Al-Muhanna was the only starter in the T5 category in his Mercedes truck.
After technical scrutineering and administration checks for the second round of the Saudi Toyota Rally Championship, 23 cars, 12 motorcycles and three quads were permitted to start the event. The car section was broken down to one T1+ machine for Al-Rajhi, seven T1 machines, six in T2, four Can-Ams in each of the T3 and T4 categories and a T5 truck.
Al-Rajhi was joined by Saudi Toyota Rally Championship leader Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh, Khalid Al-Hamzani, Ahmed Al-Shegawi, Saleh Al-Saif, Dania Akeel, Maha Al-Hameli, Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, riders Mishal Al-Ghuneim and Mohammed Al-Balooshi and SAMF officials at the pre-event press conference earlier in the afternoon.
Crews tackled the Qualifying Stage at the start of a challenging route laid on by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, which is run under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal.
The event is being held in conjunction with the ministry of sport and in partnership with official sponsor Abdul Latif Jameel Motors and strategic sponsor Saudi Investment Bank.