|Ha´il Saudi Baja: Yazeed Al-Rajhi set to drive JMB Racing Lancer.|
Defending Saudi Arabian Ha’il Baja champion Yazeed Al-Rajhi will drive a French-built Lancer in the opening round of the 2010 FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, which is being organised by the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF). The Kingdom’s premier off-road motor sport event 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.
Al-Rajhi won the event last season with French co-driver Matthieu Baumel in an Overdrive Nissan Navara, but has switched to the petrol-engined Lancer following the car’s impressive showing on the recent Dakar Rally in South America. All five of the racing cars reached the finish of the world’s toughest cross-country rally, with Baumel teaming up with Portugal’s Carlos Sousa to claim a fine sixth overall and Argentina’s Orlando Terranova and Brazilian Guilherme Spinelli finishing ninth and 10th to give the new French team three cars in the top 10.
Several ex-Mitsubishi factory cars and equipment were acquired by the French JMB Stradale Off-Road Team in 2009 and the diesel engines were replaced with V6 petrol units for the Dakar. The team is owned by French rally driver Nicolas Misslin and runs under the management of former MMSP team director Dominique Serieys.
Al-Rajhi and Baumel have just returned from taking part in the Qatar International Rally with a Kronos Racing Peugeot 207 S2000. They were holding a top four position when a heavy landing damaged the car’s intercooler and forced them into retirement.
Last year’s Saudi Arabian Ha’il Baja was the first event of its kind for Al-Rajhi, but the talented Saudi quickly adapted to driving a traditional desert 4x4 vehicle and will be one of the favourites for victory in next month’s three-day event.
"I enjoyed the Ha’il Rally last year and wanted a competitive car in which to defend my title," admitted Al-Rajhi. "Matthieu was a member of the JMB team on the Dakar and I know the potential of the car. It will be ideal for the Ha’il Rally. I am very excited about this."
"It’s extremely motivating to go on an event where we have never participated before," said JMB Stradale Off-Road Team manager, Dominique Serieys. "It is an honour for us to start the Ha’il Baja with a talented driver like Yazeed Al-Rajhi. Thanks to his co-driver Matthieu Baumel we have reached an agreement for the Baja. The Lancer is a reliable and powerful car, which may take them to the outright win. The JMB Stradale Off-Road team will go to Saudi Arabia straight from the Dakar, where we were able to compete among the factory cars and where we won the petrol category. We must now concentrate our efforts and stay focused for the event."
Over 25 teams, including drivers from Saudi Arabia, Italy, the UAE, Jordan, Great Britain and Qatar, had entered the event at the start of this week, although event officials in Riyadh are expecting several other teams to register in the coming days. The competitive action will get underway with a timed Prologue stage on Tuesday, February 16th.
"There is a buzz of excitement now in the build up to the rally," enthused Mishaal Al-Sudairy, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF). "We are expecting many VIPs and regional club presidents to attend the rally and the SAMF has left no stone unturned to ensure this event will be a great success. I am also delighted to announce that Jan Sandstrom, from Sweden, will work with us as an SAMF advisor and observer. He has great experience in international rallying and will be a big asset to our organising 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.
2010/01/28 | 12:59 CET | Editor: MR/HS/PERKINS