|Ha´il Saudi Baja: Yazeed Al-Rajhi set to defend title with Nissan Navara.|
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi will defend his Saudi Arabian Ha’il Desert Challenge crown for a third year when the FIA-sanctioned event takes place in the north-central region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from February 8-10, 2011.
Al-Rajhi has pieced together a deal to run a Nissan Navara in the three-day Saudi showpiece in a car prepared by Overdrive Racing of Belgium under the management of Jean-Marc Fortin. The car that the Riyadh driver will use took part in the Dakar Rally last week in the hands of Spain’s Joan Roma and Frenchman Gilles Picard. It was hovering around the top 10 when rear axle problems proved too much for Roma and he was forced to retire.
Al-Rajhi used a powerful V6-engined Nissan to win the event in 2009 and secured a second victory in a Mitsubishi Racing Lancer run by the JMB Stradale team in 2010. He is relishing the prospect of challenging for the Saudi off-road crown for a third successive year. Al-Rajhi teamed up with French co-driver Matthieu Baumel last season to win the Kuwait round of the regional rally series and the Saudi Baja for the second time and the pair will join forces again next month in the Nissan.
Baumel was working on the recent Dakar Rally in a television capacity with the *Eurosport *network and has already won the Saudi Ha’il Desert Challenge on three occasions - he was the winning co-driver alongside Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah with an X-raid BMW X3 CC in 2008.
Team manager Fortin has also been keeping his hand in before the Saudi event gets underway. The Belgian was a member of the official BMW X-raid team that finished fourth, fifth, seventh and 20th overall in the Dakar. He co-drove Poland’s Krzvsztof Holowczyc to fifth overall before switching his attentions to the rebuilding and shipping of Al-Rajhi’s Nissan to the Middle East.
"Yazeed is a very talented your driver and we are looking forward to working with him again in Saudi Arabia" enthused Fortin. "The event in Saudi Arabia takes place on a very challenging route and we are looking forward to it immensely."
The event 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 and the Presidency of His Royal Highness Prince Sultan Bin Bandar Al-Faisal
Officials have also confirmed that the second stage of the revised 2011 Saudi Arabian Ha’il Desert Challenge will start at the ancient city of Jubbah. The site is around 7,000 years old and is famous for its rock art. It is the centrepiece of around 2,000 known rock art sites in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Event officials have also announced that a generous prize fund will be offered to competitors. The winner will receive 100,000 SR (approx $28,000 USD), with 50,000 SR offered to the runner-up, down to 10,000 SR for fifth position. The winner of the T2 category will earn himself 30,000 SR, with 20,000 SR being awarded to the runner-up and 10,000 SR for third overall.
Scrutineering and documentation takes place on Monday, February 7th, while competitive action gets underway with a timed super special stage after the official starting ceremony on Tuesday, February 8th. Legs two and three will run through the An Nafud desert to the north and west of Ha’il on Wednesday, February 9th and Thursday, February 10th.
2011/01/21 | 16:25 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/PERKINS