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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: Dutchman Van Deijne sets fastest time.






The Dutch crew of Tonni van Deijne and Wouter Rosegaar set the fastest time of 2m 10s in the opening two kilometre super special stage of the 2008 Saudi Arabian Hail Baja, round one of the FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, which began over a sandy track on the outskirts of Hail on Tuesday afternoon.

The Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up crew will now lead the international field from 13 countries into the first selective section across the Nafud desert on Wednesday. Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel set the second fastest time in their BMW X3CC and Miroslav Zapletal and Miloslav Janacek were third in a Mitsubishi L200. "It's a nice surprise to be leading," said the Dutchman. "But there is a long way to go."

"It was a long and tiring journey from Sweden," admitted Al-Attiyah. "I must thank the Saudi club and Abdullah Bakhashab for his help in making it as painless as possible. We had to drive from Riyadh last night (around 650km) because there was no flight. But I made it in time and am looking forward to the next two days. We are very happy with the car and I feel that we have a great chance of winning this race."

Russian Boris Gadasin, Lebanon's Michel Saleh and Hungarian Laszlo Palik were well-placed heading into the desert stages.

Thirty-three cars were permitted to start in the international section and 10 were entered in the Saudi Motorsport Committee National Baja Cup at the rear of the field for the start of Tuesday afternoon's Hail super special stage. Saudi drivers Turki Al-Sudairy and Abdullah Al-Faresi and the UAE's Abdullah Al-Ketbi were non-starters from the original list for the international event.

Those 10 Saudi entrants failed to pass scrutineering on the grounds that their safety cages did not meet exacting FIA standards. "It was not a surprise to be honest," admitted race director Abdullah Bakhashab. "There was dispensation for these drivers to race last year but, now we are a round of the FIA Baja Cup, it was a firm no this time. These drivers now realise that they have to upgrade their cars next year to ensure that they comply with the rules."

Dutchman Toni van Deijne made last minute travel arrangement to ensure that he could enter the Saudi Baja. "When the Dakar was cancelled it was a rush to get the car shipped here," said van Deijne. "But it is a desert rally and the Arabic people have been very friendly to us. We don't have the factory cars like Nasser and Boris, but I will be trying to finish as close to them as possible."

Last year's Saudi Hail Baja champion Rajeh Al-Shammeri has upgraded to a Mitsubishi Pajero this season and attracted local sponsorship. He set a time of 2m 58s in the super special stage. "Rajeh knows that it will be difficult to win the rally again," admitted co-driver Mohammed Khashoggi. "But we have prepared as well as we can and will try our best."

Tomorrow (Wednesday) marks the second leg of the Saudi Arabian Hail Baja and the first entry into the Nafud desert. Teams leave Maghwat at 06.10hrs and head towards the opening 91.73km road liaison section between Al Raodh and Jubbah. Competitors will be permitted to refuel at Al Nufood during a punishing first 298.85km selective section, which begins at 07.15hrs, before a 94.85km liaison returns teams to service and the overnight halt in Hail.

Event officials suggest that the opening 60km will cross rougher and bumpier terrain before a narrow track between small dunes and ditches takes crews to the second passage control. Tracks then give way to a series of stunning sand dunes and classic desert scenery, although recent rains have left patches of standing water on the route. The section reaches the stunning landmark Al Ulaim mountain at 155km and a series of narrow tracks then reach the refuelling point. Twisty trails and faster open terrain guides teams to the finish of the varied section.

"I cannot see anyone getting stuck on this first desert stage," said Lebanon's Michel Saleh, who is at the wheel of a Land Rover 110. "There has been a lot of rain and the sand is hard and compacted. I think the biggest problem will be damaging the car after a hard landing."

The three-day event is being held under the patronage of HRH Prince Saud Bin Abdul Mohsen Bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Hail, President of the Supreme Commission for Hail Development and the Head of the Supreme Commission of the Hail Rally and reaches its conclusion at the Maghwat facility from 17.00hrs on Thursday afternoon (February 14th) after a second 187.96km selective section.

2008/02/12 | 22:32 CET | Editor: MR/HS/ Neil Perkins, Pics: [ www.SaudiGear.com ]






















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