TABUK: Saudi pilot Yazeed Al-Rajhi and German co-driver Timo Gottschalk took a commanding 4 minute and 21 second lead in the Tabuk Toyota Rally on Friday.

The Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux crew led the opening 245 km selective section, a scenic and demanding route through the Zaita desert, from start to finish.

“No issues, no problems, all is good,” said Al-Rajhi afterwards.

The pair’s team-mates, Dania Akeel and Stephane Duple, also had a strong run that left the two Ultimate P class cars at the top of the leader board.

“It was spectacular and a lot of fun, amazing views and a really nice race,” Akeel said. 

“The first 85 km were open and fast and the remainder were more technical between the rocks and the mountains and canyons. We took care to pass without any surprises. I love this car a lot and I feel more confident every kilometer.”

Saleh Al-Saif was the best of the rest with Qatari co-driver Nasser Al-Kuwari. The Saudi moved into a comfortable category lead over fourth-placed Can-Am driver Abdullah Al-Haydan.

“The stage is different to last year. A lot of new terrain and tracks. It was a little bit tricky and rocky and we had a puncture at the beginning,” Al-Saif said.

“About 10 km before the end, we had another puncture and decided not to change it. My aim is to be second in the championship.”

MX Ride Dubai’s Mohammed Al-Balooshi claimed the stage win in the motorcycle category on his Husqvarna with a time of 3 hours, 7 minutes and 42 seconds.

But the Emirati still trails local rider Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera by 1 minute 50 seconds in the overall standings after the Saudi won the Prologue stage.

“Today, it was a very long stage and quite busy. I am really happy. I picked the strategy to start 10th and I knew if everything went right, I would win,” Al-Balooshi said.

“I didn’t expect to catch everybody at 60km. Then I led to the finish. That’s why I’m here to improve my navigation. I am really happy with that overall and I am happy to be able to compete in the championship.

“I have won in Kuwait, Qatar and Oman but I don’t have a Saudi title. This would make my list complete. I did win something in KSA in 2009 but it would be special to win this title.”

Hamdan Al-Ali and Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Shatti were classified third and fourth, with Ahmed Al-Jaber rounding out the top five.

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