News Saudi trio fastest on Prologue stage at Tabuk Toyota Rally

TABUK: The Tabuk Toyota Rally 2024, round two of the Saudi Toyota Championship, will start from King Khalid City in Tabuk on Thursday afternoon, with most of the leading racers confirmed for the starting lineups.

The Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation has laid on a challenging three-day desert route for the entrants, which include cars, motorcycles and quads, with approximately 419 kilometers to be timed against the clock.

Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi has an eight-point overall lead in the drivers’ championship, courtesy of his and Timo Gottshalk’s victory during round one in Hail.

Dark Horse OT3 driver Saleh Al-Saif is his nearest rival with Dania Akeel holding third place after making the switch from the Challenger category to driving an Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux alongside Al-Rajhi in the Ultimate P section. Al-Saif’s co-driver Nasser Al-Kuwari trails Gottschalk by eight points in the co-drivers’ championship.

With Pal Lonyai and Ahmed Al-Kuwari not competing in Tabuk, the door is open for German driver Annett Quandt to climb the leader board. She currently holds sixth in the overall standings and switches from a Yamaha YXZ to drive a Can-Am Maverick X3 on this occasion. Her closest challengers in the overall drivers’ championship are Hamad Al-Harbi, Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh and Maha Al-Hameli.

Al-Rajhi has had it all his own way so far in the Ultimate P category, while Al-Yaeesh arrives in Tabuk with a six-point cushion over Faris Al-Moshna in the Ultimate class. Khaled and Ahmed Al-Shammeri currently hold third and fourth places.

Al-Saif leads the absent Lonyai by seven points in Challenger, with Quandt, Al-Harbi and Al-Hameli looking to snatch the initiative from the OT3 driver. Hamza Bakhashab and Abdullah Al-Haydan are also registered in the category this weekend.

In the absence of the SSV category-leading Ahmed Al-Kuwari, Moaaz Hariri — who is a single point behind the Qatari — has the opportunity to pull clear of his nearest rivals. The Shegawi Racing duo of Esraa Al-Dkheil and Abdullah Al-Shegawi should provide stiff competition in their Can-Ams, although Waleed Al-Dakheel and Orjwan Ammar are also on hand for the battle.

Muneef Al-Shammeri heads to the start line with a 10-point lead over Sufian Al-Omer in the Stock category for series-production cross-country vehicles. Majed Al-Thunayyan is third, a further four points adrift in the standings.

MX Ride Dubai’s Mohammed Al-Balooshi wheels out his Husqvarna Rally Bike this weekend in a four-motorcycle team alongside his closest title rival Abdullah Al-Shatti, brother Sultan and fellow Emirati Marwan Al-Rahmani. Al-Balooshi holds a 10-point cushion over his Kuwaiti team-mate with Saudi Arabia rider Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera holding third and Hamdan Al-Ali and the absent Abdullah Abu Aisheh rounding off the top five.

Haitham Al-Tuwaijri (25 points) heads an eight-strong quad field and will defend a five-point cushion over Hani Al-Noumesi in the standings. Recent Baja TT Dehesa Extremadura winner Abdulaziz Al-Shayban is third on 16 points, three ahead of Abdulaziz Al-Atawi.

Thursday will see the ceremonial start at King Khalid Sport City precede the opening Prologue stage in Tabuk that will determine the starting order for the first of two desert selective sections on Friday morning.

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