|Ha´il Saudi Baja: Saudi Arabia´s A. Bakhashab makes on-off return.|
Abdullah Bakhashab, Saudi Arabia’s most successful rally driver, will make a one-off return to rallying to take part in the Saudi Arabian Ha’il Baja on February 16th-18th.
The Jeddah-based driver has received one-off authorisation from the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF) to enter the three-day opening round of the 2010 FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, which is being organised by the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF) 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.
Bakhashab, 42, will drive a Toyota Saudi Rally Team-run Toyota FJ Cruiser Proto, which has been prepared in Europe for Saudi’s premier off-road event. The 1995 FIA Middle East Rally Champion was the third Arab driver ever to score points in the prestigious FIA World Rally Championship and also won three rounds of the regional series during his programme of international events with Toyota in the 1990s.
Bakhashab will team up with Northern Ireland’s Bobby Willis for the first time since retiring from the sport after the 2003 Rally of Lebanon. Willis is a rally cartographer and works for the Volkswagen Motorsport team in the FIA World Cup and Dakar Rally.
Qatar’s Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani is also one of the 37 drivers who had registered to tackle the event on Monday evening. The entry does not close until Tuesday, but event officials are delighted that 26 Saudi teams and 11 crews from outside the Kingdom feature on the provisional list, including teams from the UK, Italy and Jordan. The SAMF has also confirmed that there is a total prize fund of $53,000 USD, with $28,000 USD being awarded to the overall winner.
Al-Thani won the 1993 FIA Middle East Rally Championship and has tackled numerous Baja-type events in the Middle East and Europe in recent years. He has also returned to form of late and clinched a superb podium finish for third place in the recent Qatar International Rally with UAE-based co-driver Arif Yousef Mohammed.
"I always enjoy the Baja events and wanted to support the Ha’il Baja," said Al-Thani, who has also registered for the Middle East rally series this year and is hoping to tackle the next round in Kuwait at the start of March."
The Qatari will drive a powerful Nissan Patrol in the three-day Saudi desert event, which gets underway with a ceremonial start and timed super special stage on Tuesday, February 16th. He finished seventh overall last year with Australia-based co-driver George Sarayan, but will be accompanied by Arif Yousef Mohammed on this occasion.
The entry list received by the SAMF has been bolstered by a host of UAE drivers for the second successive year. Abdullah Al-Herais and Abdulhaleem Bin Zayed wheel out their Nissan Patrol and will be joined in Saudi’s An Nufud desert by Ali Hussain Obaid and Ali Hussein Al-Balooshi in a similar car.
Three Dubai-based British expatriates have also entered the Saudi event for a second successive season. Ian Barker and Lee Marshall wheel out a Nissan, Mark Powell and Paul Richards again take part in their Honda-engined Buggy and David Mabbs and French co-driver Xavier Caminada complete the UAE line-up in their Toyota FJ Cruiser.
Powell held second overall behind eventual winner Yazeed Al-Rajhi at the end of day one of last year’s Ha’il Baja and went on to claim the runner-up spot. It marked a career-best performance for the Briton and his nimble Buggy and he returns with one eye firmly on a podium finish for a second year. Barker eventually finished ninth overall in 2009, but Mabbs was forced out of the running with a blown engine.
"We are delighted to see that teams from Qatar and the UAE are supporting our event," enthused Mishaal Al-Sudairy, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF). "They all enjoyed the rally last year and I am sure that they will be fighting for top honours again this time. It is also pleasing to see so many local teams supporting the rally, including the importer-backed Toyota Saudi Rally Team and the Bakhashab Isuzu Team."
Further information is available from the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, PO Box 87881, Riyadh 11652, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Tel: + 9661 477 1035, Fax: + 9661 477 1050, E-mail: email@example.com or Hamoud Al-Jabry, Technical Advisor, Mobile: +966 560 623436 or + 966 546 677660, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
2010/02/03 | 22:15 CET | Editor: MR/HS/PERKINS