Yasir Seaidan – early leader of Al Ula–Neom Cross-Country Rally, Rd3 Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship
Yasir Seaidan was the early leader of the Al Ula–Neom Cross-Country Rally, the third round of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, after setting the fastest time of 1hr 47min 08sec on the opening loop stage of 212km around Al Ula on Wednesday.
The MINI All4 Racing driver and French navigator François Cazalet won the stage by 5min 45sec from Abu Dhabi Racing Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and French co-driver Xavier Panseri in a Peugeot 2008. “It was a fast stage with nice scenery but we lost a few minutes after 46km and tried hard to catch the time up again,” said Al-Qassimi, a former FIA Middle East rally champion.
Pre-race favourite Yazeed Al-Rajhi lost more time than anticipated trying to change a left rear puncture when one of the bolts wouldn’t free itself. The Toyota Hilux driver finished third with Russian navigator Konstantin Zhiltsov and returned to Al Ula 6min 24sec off the lead.
Two-time former FIA Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso quickly got into the groove across the Saudi deserts with navigator Marc Coma and was pleased to complete the day’s action in fourth place, 79 seconds behind his Toyota team-mate.
Alonso said: “The first stage in Saudi Arabia was okay for me, over 200km, without any issues and this is a good start for us because we had a lot of problems in South Africa and Morocco. This is good for our preparations. Tomorrow I hope we have a day with a little bit more pace. The terrain today was amazing. It is nice to see it.”
Former Ha’il Rally winner Essa Al-Dossary was the best of the rest in fifth place in his ED Racing Nissan Navara.
Czech Miroslav Zapletal rounded off the top six on the high-speed opening stage of the four-day event being organised by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of H.R.H. Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and supervision of former FIA Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab.
Yousef Al-Suwaidi led the TL2 category for series production cross-country vehicles in 14th place in a Nissan and Saleh Al-Saif topped the T3 standings in 15th at the helm of his Can-Am. Saudi driver Saeed Al-Mouri retired from the day’s action suffering from back pain.
Mishal Alghuneim was the only motorcycle rider to complete the full stage on his KTM in a time of 3hr 07min 42sec. The Saudi built up a massive lead when time penalties were imposed on rivals Mohammed Al-Oraini and Abdullah Al-Helal.
Competition was far closer in the quad category, where recent Rally Qassim winner Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi edged into a 3min 07sec advantage over fellow Yamaha rider Riyadh Al-Orafan. Sufyan Al-Omar was third of the nine quad riders who started the stage. Abdulsalem Hamam crashed and sustained a leg injury and was supported by Nissan driver Ahmed Al-Shegawi at the scene of the incident.
Teams will tackle a second loop of 212km around Al Ula on Thursday.
The event is running 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.
Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS1 (cars – unofficial):
1. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/François Cazalet (FRA) MINI All4 Racing 1hr 47min 08sec
2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Peugeot 2008 1hr 52min 53sec
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 1hr 53min 32sec
4. Fernando Alonso (ESP)/Marc Coma (ESP) Toyota Hilux 1hr 54min 51sec
5. Essa Al-Dossari (SAU)/Sebastien Delaunay (FRA) Nissan Navara 1hr 55min 05sec
6. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK) Ford F-150 Evo 1hr 56min 05sec
7. Ahmed Al-Shegawi (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) Nissan 2hr 06min 37sec
8. Khalid Al-Feraihi (SAU)/Stéphane Duplé (FRA) Nissan 2hr 07min 22sec
9. Mutair Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Hani Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan 2hr 10min 46sec
10. Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri (SAU)/Khalid Al-Marshood (SAU) Toyota 2hr 14min 09sec
11. Ahmed Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Ziad Al-Harbi (SAU) Nissan 2hr 15min 39sec
12. Khalid Al-Remali (SAU)/Radi Al-Remali (SAU) Nissan 2hr 16min 14sec
13. Al-Mashna Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Mazen Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan 2hr 16min 14sec
14. Yousef Al-Suwaidi (SAU)/Saud Al-Tamimi (SAU) Nissan (T2) 2hr 18min 30sec
15. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Muath Al-Arja (JOR) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 2hr 20min 17sec
Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS1 (bikes – unofficial):
1. Mishal Algunheim (SAU) KTM 3hr 07min 42sec
2. Mohammed Al-Oraini (SAU) Honda 46hr 05min 00sec
3. Abdullah Al-Helal (SAU) Honda 52hr 00min 00sec
Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally – positions after SS1 (quads – unofficial):
1. Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi (SAU) Yamaha 2hr 59min 30sec
2. Riyadh Al-Oraifan (SAU) Yamaha 3hr 02min 37sec
3. Sufyan Al-Omar (SAU) Yamaha 3hr 05min 17sec
4. Abdulaziz Al-Shayban (SAU) Yamaha 3hr 23min 19sec
5. Walid Al-Shegawi (SAU) Honda 4hr 29min 22sec
6. Abdulkarim Al-Shegawi (SAU) Honda 4hr 41min 19sec
7. Ahmed Al-Harbi (SAU) Yamaha 4hr 43min 39sec
8. Faisal Al-Suwih (SAU) Yamaha 13hr 40min 00sec
9. Abdulsalem Hamam (SAU) Yamaha 21hr 20min 00sec
Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally – positions after SSS (truck – unofficial):
1. Ibrahim Al-Muhanna/Osama Al-Sanad/Raed Abo Theeb (SAU) Mercedes 3hr 36min 12sec