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This is the single-news section of the marathonrally.com news "Offroad & Motorsports". To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.









Hail Saudi Baja: Al Attiyah romps to emphatic win in Saudi Arabia







Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel romped to an emphatic 21m 41s victory in the 2008 Saudi Arabian Hail Baja to record their first victory with the BMW X-raid team on Thursday. The Qatari, driving a diesel-engined BMW X3 CC, began the final section 19m 54s ahead of the Russian crew of Boris Gadasin and Alexander Mironenko and was never troubled over the closing 187.96 competitive kilometres.

Gadasin held on to take a comfortable second overall in his Nissan Navara and the UAE's Yayha Al-Helai and Khaled Al-Kendi completed the podium places with a memorable drive in their Nissan Patrol. "For sure I am not happy with second place," said Gadasin. "But we had our problems on the first desert stage and it was not possible to get the time back. Today was a nice stage - a lot faster, flowing and not as much camel grass."

The UAE-based Third Yayha Al-Helai was in triumphant mood: "My car does not have the power or the support of the top teams, but we have achieved a famous result," said the third-placed Emirati. "It is fantastic. It was a good rally and this was a great result for us."

Hungarians Laszlo Palik and Gabor Darazsi missed out on the podium, but claimed vital Baja championship points for fourth overall on their first Saudi visit. The Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal settled for fifth overall in his Mitsubishi L200 Strakar and UAE's Abdullah Al-Herais rounded off the top six.

Numerous time penalties were imposed late on Wednesday evening on competitors who had missed various waypoints along the desert route. A shocked Zapletal dropped from third to seventh when he was given a one-hour penalty and Lebanon's Michel Saleh incurred 75 minutes of additional penalties and slipped to ninth.

First day leader Tonni Van Deijne lost over an hour with a broken velocity joint on the first desert selective and was pushed down to 18th overall by a further 2h 30m of time penalties. The main beneficiary of the penalties was the UAE's Yayha Al-Helai, who moved up to third place in his Nissan Patrol.

QMMF president Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah from Qatar had been plagued by electrical problems after the refuel on Wednesday and was unable to restart in his Land Rover. The UAE's Saeed Al-Ketbi suffered terminal gearbox woes and the UAE's Mark Powell gave up on trying to repair his Buggy at midnight on Wednesday when a starter motor stud sheared after the clutch had been replaced. But it was business as usual at the head of the field for Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah through the opening kilometres of the final selective.

The Qatari began the final day 19m 54s ahead of Gadasin, who had lost several crucial minutes at the end of the second leg trying to find a waypoint. Al-Attiyah was 41 seconds faster than the Russian through 24km and 1m 24s ahead of Zapletal, who was permitted to restart third on the road. Gadasin regained eight seconds at PC1, but Al-Attiyah continued to edge away as the section progressed and Van Deijne began an impressive climb through the field. The Dutchman began the section in 14th and was soon running as the fourth fastest driver on the track.

But the Qatari was delayed between PC2 and 105km by a difficult waypoint and Gadasin overturned the deficit and was the virtual stage leader, albeit briefly, at PC3. Al-Attiyah was not to be outdone, however, and edged ahead over the subsequent kilometres and eventually won the selective by 1m 47s to record a memorable win. Gadasin finished a solid second in his Overdrive Racing Nissan Navara.

The battle for the final podium place was between Al-Helai and Palik. The Hungarian had the edge early on, but the Emirati - who has vast experience of the Arabian desert and several top six UAE Desert Challenge finishes under his belt - dug deep to produce a stunning result in his Nissan Patrol and claim third overall.

Miroslav Zapletal was consistently the third fastest driver on the final day, but leg two time penalties cost him a possible place on the podium. Van Deijne eventually pipped the Czech for the third fastest time on leg three. Lebanon's Michel Saleh had been running as the seventh fastest driver on the track, but hit trouble after the fourth passage control.

"I would like to extend my appreciation to everyone who made this successful event possible," said Mishaal Al-Sudairy, chairman of the Saudi Motor Sports Committee. "I would like to especially thank Jose Megre (Megre has worked on Baja events in Portugal for many years), who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to offer advice and pass on his considerable experience of FIA events to our new team."

2008/02/14 | 14:40 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Neil Perkins






















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