Abdelali storms into surprise Ha’il lead - GulfToday

Abdelali storms into surprise Ha’il lead

Abdelali storms into surprise Ha’il lead

Saleh Al Abdelali and Ole Floene in action during the second 352km selective section of the 15th Ha’il Nissan Rally on Thursday.

Saudi driver Saleh Al Abdelali and Norwegian navigator Ole Floene were the new leaders of the car category after the second 352km selective section of the 15th Ha’il Nissan Rally on Thursday.

Pre-race favourite Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr had a useful lead at the start of the day’s action but were forced to retire with a front right-hand wheel issue. The bolts were all in place when the wheel sheared on the Riyadh driver’s Toyota Hilux.

At the wheel of a Hummer, their Yazeed Racing Team colleagues duly found themselves returning to the night halt in Ha’il with an outright lead of 19min 43sec over the veteran Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal and his Slovakian navigator Marek Sykora.

Zapletal finished the stage in sixth.

Mutair and Hani Al Shammeri moved up to third place in their T1 Nissan after setting the second fastest time on the stage. Saleh Al Saif and Yasser Al Shammeri came home in fifth and climbed to fourth and held a comfortable advantage in the T3 section.

Mushanna Shammeri was fifth and Muneef Al Salmani switched to a T1 Nissan and holds sixth overall. Khaled Hamazani held the advantage in the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles and was classified in 13th overall, but Saeed Al-Shammeri retired on the day’s stage.

Sultan and Mohammed Al Balooshi rode together for much of the day’s stage and the latter carved out the motorcycle stage win after starting behind his brother. The Abu Dhabi rider heads into day three with a three-second advantage over his KTM counterpart.

Fellow Emirati Rashid Ali Hassan was third on the day’s stage, but Saudi Arabia’s Anas Al Ruhayani holds a distant third in the general classification. The UAE’s Ali Ashoor retired.

Sufyan Al Omar extended his lead in the quad category to 2min 41sec with a second successive stage win. Riyadh Al Oraifan was second to consolidate a similar position in the overall standings. Abdulaziz Al Shayban, Sultan Al Masoud and Abdulsalem Al Hamam reached the night halt in third, fourth and fifth overall, but multiple former quad category winner Abdulmajeed Al Khulaifi retired on the special.

The third and penultimate stage takes place on Friday in the An Nafud desert.

Meanwhile, Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel cruised to the fastest time of 3min 25.6sec on the opening 3.55km super special stage of the Oman International Rally, round one of the 2020 FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), on Thursday.

Attiyah guided his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 to an overnight lead of 5.9 seconds with Oman’s Abdullah Al Ruwahi, partnered by Jordanian navigator Ata Al Hmoud, getting to grips with his Ford Fiesta R5 for the first time to snatch second place.

Kuwait’s Meshari Al Thefiri continued his recent domination of the MERC 2 category into a new season with the third fastest time and the lead in the showroom section in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. He and Irish co-driver Derek O’Brien finished the stage 10.9 seconds ahead of Oman’s Zakariya Al Ofi, who was second in MERC 2 and fifth overall, behind fourth-placed Qatari Nasser Khalifa Al Attiyah and his Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini.

The Lebanese duo of Henry Kahy and Rony Maroun began the driver’s defence of his ERC 3 title in solid style by holding the two-wheel drive advantage in their Škoda Fabia. Kuwait’s Jassim Al Muqahwi brought up the rear of the international field after incurring a jump-start penalty.

Teams face two loops of three special stages on Friday, starting with the first pass through the 19.20km of Al Misfah at 09.59hrs. The 16.1km of Saal follows at 10.32hrs and precedes Madinat Al-Irfan (11.6km) from 11.20hrs. The stages are then repeated in the afternoon.