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Rajeh Al-Shammeri edges into lead
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 01 - 02 - 2014

Neil Perkins
JEDDAH — Saudi Arabian driver Rajeh Farhan Al-Shammeri edged into a useful lead of 4min 06sec in the new Rally Jeddah after the opening 138km selective section through the Saudi desert Friday morning.

The Nissan driver began the stage from 13th on the road and recorded the fastest time after regular WRC driver and pre-event favorite Yazeed Al-Rajhi had relinquished a slender advantage in his Hummer midway through the special.
A plethora of quick Saudi drivers were quick to pick up on Al-Rajhi's mid-stage problems and Sami Al-Shammeri, driving a Bakhashab Isuzu Team D-Max, eventually recorded the second quickest time, having started the special from third spot. Al-Rajhi completed the stage in third, a mere five seconds behind the Isuzu, but the leading three drivers had pulled clear of a chasing pack of challengers.
Ahmed Shegawi and his UAE co-driver Yousef Arif Mohammed were 3min 17sec further behind in fourth place with their Chevrolet Buggy, while Yahia Halawi and Ali Al-Saiari were fifth in a Nissan.
Saudi rider Hamad Al-Hdayan set the quickest time amongst the bikes and the quads and has an unofficial lead of 6min 29sec heading into Saturday's final stage.
Abdullah Ghazi Al-Shoaby reached the stage finish ahead of his rivals, but his stage time was unofficial pending an investigation into the Saudi missing route waypoints along the way. The UAE's Atif Al-Zarouni missed a large section of the stage after technical problems, as Sultan Al-Masood reached the finish in the second spot.
Al-Rajhi and French co-driver Alex Winocq had clocked the fastest time of 3min 30sec on the Prologue stage to beat Saudi's Ibrahim Al-Muhanna by five seconds after 29 cars and seven bikes and quads had tackled the opening stage. Ahmed Al-Shegawi was third.
The meat of the action began with a 138km selective section from Al-Buraikat to a finish near Al-Burykah, north of Jeddah. Al-Rajhi started as clear favorite to win the car category and the Saudi had edged into a virtual 2min 29sec advantage over Shegawi at the first passage control. Yayha Al-Helai and Sami Al-Shammeri were close behind, but Al-Rajhi continued to press home his advantage as the stage progressed and he reached the 31km point 3min 47sec in front of Al-Shammeri.
Sami Al-Shammeri continued to challenge hard and he had reduced Al-Rajhi's lead to 3min 25sec at PC2. But thereafter Al-Rajhi reached the 66km point trailing Al-Shammeri by 2min 46sec.
Al-Rajhi reduced his rival's lead to just 32 seconds at PC3. Further down the field, both Abdulmonem Al-Ghamdi and Said Jaber Al-Shamrani were running inside the top five and Rajeh Farhan Al-Shammeri was enjoying a storming run. He was classified in the virtual top three after 66km and trailed Al-Rajhi by just nine seconds, having started the stage 13th on the road. Al-Helai stopped with mechanical issues before the halfway point, as did Al-Shamrani who had been running as high as second through 39km.
After 105km, Al-Shammeri's virtual stage advantage over Al-Rajhi was down to just 13 seconds, but Rajeh Farhan Al-Shammeri was in stunning form and the winner of the 2007 Ha'il International Rally led the stage outright by 1min 12sec and extended that advantage to the finish.
A second 139km selective through the remote desert to the north of Jeddah takes place Saturday. It again finishes at Al-Burykah and precedes the finish celebrations at Obhur in the evening.

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