The first of two back-to-back Baja events running under the ‘Hail Rally Toyota 2020’ banner gets underway at Al-Maghwat on the outskirts of Hail city from 16.00hrs on Thursday evening. The three-day event will mark the fourth round of the 2020 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas and finishes on Saturday afternoon.
The Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) has confirmed that, subject to technical checks and last minute changes, 54 FIA cars, 27 motorcycles, 25 quads and one truck will take part in the main event with 35 additional vehicles competing in a National Rally.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah won the Hail International Rally in 2009 with a BMW X3CC and in 2011 with a Volkswagen Race Touareg. He starts as one of the pre-event favourites to achieve success, in addition to using the two events as a shakedown test for January’s Dakar Rally.
The three-time Dakar winner said: “It is good to be able to use the Bajas for a test but it will not be easy. Most of the drivers will use the same car for Dakar but, at the same time, the teams will be asking the drivers not to push to save the cars from damage. It’s nice to be here in Hail for two Bajas. After the races I will do two days more testing here and then two days of driver teaching. Then, the whole team will be in Jeddah for December 25 and we will spend New Year there before Dakar.”
While Al-Attiyah’s Toyota team-mate Bernhard Ten Brinke concentrates on his quest for the FIA Bajas drivers’ title, Jakub Przygonski drives a third of six official Toyota entries and will be hoping to claim the win.
The Pole said: “I am really happy to come back to the desert. The last time was back in March. Timo (Gottschalk) and I will be able to test the new car and a lot of things. We will try to be as fast as possible. It has been a hard year but I was able to win the Polish Cross-Country Championship and be the vice-champion in rally cross. It means I did quite a lot during this hard year.”
Triple Dakar champion Carlos Sainz and record-breaking 13-time event winner Stéphane Peterhansel will debut their latest specification Mini John Cooper Works Buggies at the two Bajas in Hail, before using the new STC-backed cars at the Dakar in January.
X-raid team engineers in Germany have managed to make substantial improvements to the Buggy, including weight reduction and revisions to suspension geometry and set-up. The cars have been tested recently in the UAE and shakedowns will continue at the Bajas in Hail.
The Russian duo of Baja title contender Vladimir Vasilyev and Viktor Khoroshavtsev will use four-wheel drive derivatives of the MINI John Cooper Works Rally, while Denis Krotov drives a Mini All4 Racing – the model that recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and was the first of the Mini cross-country machines to be devised by X-raid back in December 2010.
X-raid also announced on Wednesday that it will field two Yamaha YXR 1000R prototypes in the T4 category at the second of the Bajas in Hail. Sweden’s Mattias Ekström will tackle the event with fellow Swede Emil Bergkvist in the first car and San Marino-based Camelia Liparoti teams up with Annett Fischer in the second car.
Ekström has enjoyed success in circuit racing. Rallying and rally cross and will go to compete at the Dakar Rally for the first time.
One of the teams hoping to challenge Mini and Toyota over the course of the two Bajas will be the Serradori Racing Team, which is running three South African Century Racing-built CR6 Buggies entered for the French duo of Mathieu Serradori and Alexandre Leroy and Saudi driver Yasir Seaidan.
The powerful Chevrolet 7.0-litre V8-powered two-wheel drive Buggy was a revelation at the last Dakar. Serradori managed to claim a stage win on his way to eighth overall and victory in the T1.3 class for two-wheel drive petrol vehicles. He tackled the Dakar on a motorcycle on three occasions before switching to four wheel competition to achieve other notable results, including victory at the 2018 Africa Eco Race, third in the Silk Way Rally and numerous category successes.
Seaidan pushed fellow Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi hard for the inaugural Saudi Toyota Desert Championship title in 2019 and has joined the SRT line-up after tackling numerous events with the X-raid team.
Baja Hail 1 will run over two selective sections, starting with the 251.81km Radifah section on Friday (December 11). The first FIA entrant will begin the stage close to the historic hub of Jubbah, 90km from Hail, at 08.58hrs. The town lies on the old caravan road between Najd and the eastern Mediterranean.
The Baja route winds its way through the An Nafud desert to the north-west of Hail city and finishes close to Highway 65, the Kingdom’s main link road between Riyadh and the Jordanian border to the north. There will be a passage control after 165.77km.
The second section of 275.29km starts close to Jubbah at 09.00hrs on Saturday morning and heads further west of Hail before looping through the desert to finish close to the village of Q’na. Rally officials have arranged two passage controls after 147.29km and 261.46km.
Hail Rally Toyota 2020 takes place under the supervision of the Hail Regional Development Authority in co-operation with the General Authority for Tourism and National Heritage and the General Authority for Sport.
With administration and scrutineering checks taking place during the day at Rally HQ, the event gets underway with a ceremonial start at Al-Maghwat, near Hail, from 16.00hrs.
Several leading competitors will then attend the official pre-event press conference at the Millennium Hotel to the north of the city at 20.00hrs.
Hail Baja 1 – leading starters (FIA):
200. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Dmitro Tsyro (UKR) MINI John Cooper Works Rally
201. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Edouard Boulanger (FRA) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy
202. Bernhard Ten Brinke (NLD)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive
203. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy
204. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux
205. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive
206. Martin Proop (CZE)/Viktor Chytka (CZE) Ford Raptor RS Cross-Country
207. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive
208. Erik van Loon (NLD)/Sebastien Delaunay (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive
209. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Alexey Kuzmich (RUS) SRT CR6 Buggy
Hail Baja 1 – leading starters (bikes):
1. Adrien van Beveren (FRA) Yamaha 450 WRF
2. Konrad Dabrowski (POL) KTM 450 Rally Replica
3. Mishal Al-Ghuneim (SAU) KTM 450 Rally
4. Fawaz Talal Al-Towaimi (SAU) Yamaha 450 WRF
5. Yasir Al-Kharif (SAU) KTM SXF 450
Hail Baja 1 – leading starters (quads):
101. Rakan Al-Hababi (SAU) Yamaha YFZ 450
102. Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi (SAU) Yamaha 700
103. Riyadh Al-Shammeri (SAU) Yamaha YFZ 450
104. Sufyan Al-Omar (SAU) Honda 450
105. Sultan Al-Masoud (SAU) Yamaha Raptor
Hail Baja 1 – leading starters (trucks):
700. Ibrahim Al-Muhanna/Osama Al-Sanad/Raed Abu Theeb (SAU) Mercedes Unimog
Hail Baja 1 – leading starters (National Rally):
600. Al Mashna Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Mazen Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan
601. Muneef Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Abdulsalem Al-Namash (SAU) Nissan Patrol
602. Sami Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Abdullah Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan
603. Fares Al-Moshana (SAU)/Musa Djiyerian (JOR) Nissan Patrol
604. Arif Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Khaled Ammash Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan
Source: Baja Hail press release