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Al-Rajhi storms into big lead
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 13 - 03 - 2016

HAIL — Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi and German navigator Timo Gottschalk extended their overall lead in the Hail Nissan International Rally from 9min 43sec to a massive 37min 17sec after the second selective section around Baqa'a Saturday.
The Hummer driver was in scintillating form and crushed the opposition with a time of 2hr 42min 12sec to finish the day's timed section 26min 47sec in front of runner-up Rajah-Farhan Al-Shammeri.
Khalid Al-Fraihi, driving the first of a fleet of Nissans in the top 10, finished the special in third and holds second overall. T2 leader Rajah-Fahan Al-Shammeri is third and Saad Salman and Ahmed Al-Gashimi round off the unofficial top five.
Ahmed Al-Shegawi's delight at winning the opening leg had been short lived when the Saudi incurred a time penalty for a route infringement and dropped from second overall to 32nd at the start of Saturday's stage. The decision promoted Al-Fraihi to second overall and Qatar's Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani into the top 10 at the start of the day.
Crews tackled a much longer selective section Saturday that looped for 216.40km along a route around Baqa'a. Al-Rajhi was the first on the road in his Hummer and began to storm clear of his rivals. He reached the first of the major checkpoints three minutes ahead of Shegawi, 6min 02sec in front of runaway T3 leader Khaled Al-Jaflah and 9min 24sec ahead of Ahmad Al-Gashami. Yasir-Hamad Seaidan had started in 16th place and was running fifth in his Toyota with French navigator Sébastien Delaunay. He climbed to second at the last passage control before rolling out of contention.
Technical issues sidelined Farhan Al-Shammeri and Sami Al-Shammeri early in the stage and Butti Banjr Al-Qahtani's car caught fire after a fuel leak. Hamed bin Eid Al-Thani stopped for a long time with mechanical issues before the halfway point after running second fastest behind Al-Rajhi at the first checkpoint. Al-Jaflah was running inside the top five and comfortably leading the T3 category until he suffered its own fair share of technical issues and retired. UAE T3 rival Atif Al-Zarouni also retired and this opened the door for Rakan-Yousef Al-Salloum to head the T3 section in his Polaris into the second half of the day's stage.
After injuring his back over a heavy jump in Muteb-Saud Al-Shammeri's Nissan Friday, Emirati co-driver Ali Mirza was detained in hospital overnight with back injuries, but was given the all clear to leave on Saturday afternoon.
Riding a Kawasaki, Abdul-Majeed Al-Khulaifi held a lead of just three seconds over Ahmed Al-Nasser after the opening leg in the quad and motorcycle category. The former winner held an unofficial lead of 6min 15sec over Heshayan Al-Heshayan's Yamaha, but Al-Nasser was quicker and the solitary motorcycle rider headed the overall category by 3min 16sec.
Saudi rider Sultan Al-Masood crashed his Yamaha heavily and was airlifted to Baka hospital and then on to King Khalid hospital, where he remains stable with bruising. Mohammed Al-Darwish suffered technical issues near the end of the special and retired.


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