|Ha´il Saudi Baja: Massive local support gives Baja a record entry.|
Impressive support from Saudi Arabian and other GCC teams have given the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF) a record entry for next week’s Ha’il Baja. The opening round of the 2010 FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas takes place on February 16th-18th under the patronage of HRH Prince Saud Bin Abdul Mohsen Bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Ha’il, President of the Supreme Commission for Ha’il Development and the Head of the Supreme Commission of the Ha’il Rally.
The SAMF have also confirmed that Saudi Arabian driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi, the winner of last year’s Ha’il Baja, has received backing from the federation to tackle all rounds of this year’s FIA International Baja Cup, including the Northern Forest Rally in Russia at the end of February.
A late flurry of entries has taken the provisional starting number to 39, with the vastly experienced UAE driver Yayha Al-Helai - a former runner-up in the UAE Desert Challenge - entering at the 11th hour with Khalid Al-Kendi in a T2 Nissan Patrol. Al-Helai took part in a couple of rounds of the FIA World Cup last season in a bid to win the prestigious T2 category and is sure to challenge for a top five position when competitive action gets underway with a timed super special stage in the north-central province of Saudi Arabia next Tuesday (February 16th).
UAE-based businessman Raed Baker was a regular face in the FIA Middle East Rally championship for several years and the Emirati has also entered the Saudi event in his Mitsubishi L200 with co-driver Nabil Almadi. Baker suffered a disappointing early clutch failure on the start line of the first desert stage of the Ha’il event two years ago, but his Mitsubishi is a tried and tested formula and Baker is confident of taking a top finish.
Meanwhile, Majed Al-Ghamdi has recruited the services of Italian co-driver Nicola Arena in the first of two Bakhashab Isuzu Team D-Max entries. The diesel cars made an impressive showing in the 2008 UAE Desert Challenge with Australian Bruce Garland and Sweden’s Pal Wallentheim at the wheel. Al-Ghamdi and Arena will be joined by Sami and Abdullah Al-Shammeri in a second Bakhashab team car. Arena has made a useful start to his season of Middle East motor sport, having finished second overall in the recent Qatar International Rally with Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri.
An Italian driver also features on the provisional entry list. Tommaso Castellazzi is relishing his Saudi adventure at the wheel of a Land Rover 110. The Italian has already taken part in the Dakar, Qatar Baja, UAE Desert Challenge and the Rally of Egypt.
The all-Jordanian crew of Omar Daoud and Raed Mustafa have also signalled their intention to take part in their first Ha’il Baja. Daoud will drive a Nissan and is provisionally seeded at 34.
"The Ha’il Baja is a relatively new event in the off-road calendar and we are delighted that our return to the series has been supported by so many teams," enthused Mishaal Al-Sudairy, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF). "Seven car manufacturers are represented on the provisional entry list and we have attracted competitors from eight countries, including four in Europe (Italy, France, England and Northern Ireland)."
2010/02/09 | 18:26 CET | Editor: MR/HS/PERKINS