Saudi driver Saleh Alabdulali and Norwegian navigator Ola Floene maintained a comfortable overall advantage of 12min 52sec after the third 254km selective section of the 15th Ha’il Nissan Rally on Friday.
On a stage near Umm Al-Ghalban where Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr returned to action to claim the fastest stage time after their wheel issues on day two, Alabdulali finished the special with the seventh quickest time to maintain his useful lead over Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal and his Slovak navigator Marek Sykora.
Al-Rajhi’s navigator Michael Orr explained their issues on day two: “We just had a small failure with a part on the rear of the car. We tried to continue but eventually everything was broken and the wheel fell off and it was impossible to continue after that. It was nice to drive today and maybe we can still win some points for the championship. We can also make some good tests. We are changing the set-up every day. The stage started on fast gravel roads, like WRC, and the last 170km was sandy tracks and some tricky navigation.”
Khaled Al-Feraihi and his French co-driver Sebastien Delaunay were third fastest on the day and Mutair Al-Shammeri came home in fifth to maintain third position in the rankings.
Leader Saleh Alabdulali said: “I think today was important for the co-driver. I lost 12 minutes but I got back on the route and after that I finish and still have a good lead to take into the final day.”
Al-Mushanna Al-Shammeri managed to overhaul Saleh Al-Saif to snatch fourth place, but Al-Saif had the consolation of the lead in the T3 category. Muneef Al-Salmani sustained a puncture on his Nissan but was feeling better after an illness on day two and reached Ha’il City in sixth. Abdullah Al-Shegawi also sustained a flat tyre but the son of Saudi veteran Ahmed Al-Shegawi held seventh place.
Khaled Al-Hamazani maintained his advantage in the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles and Khalil Al-Tuwaijri topped the T4 standings from Fahad Al-Naim.
The UAE’s Sultan and Mohammed Al-Balooshi continued their duel for motorcycle honours with Mohammed claiming the stage win to extend his lead from three seconds to 3min 06sec. The KTM duo are a class of the field and Saudi Arabia’s Ahmed Al-Nasser is a distant third. Anas Al-Ruhyani was badly delayed and lost third place in the overall standings.
Riyadh Al-Oraifan won the stage in the quad section to reduce Sufyan Al-Omar’s advantage to just 13 seconds heading into the final stage on Saturday. Abdulaziz Al-Shayban and Sultan Al-Masoud are third and fourth overall.
The rally is being organised by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of H.R.H. Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and the supervision of the Ha’il Regional Development Authority in co-operation with the General Authority for Tourism and National Heritage and the General Authority for Sport.
The event runs under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Saud Al-Saud, Governor of Ha’il, and His Royal Highness Faisal Bin Fahed Bin Moqren Al-Saud.
The final stage takes place on Saturday in the An Nafud desert.
Ha’il Nissan Rally – positions after SS3 (cars – unofficial @14.15hrs):
1. Saleh Alabdulali (SAU)/Ola Floene (NOR) Hummer 10hr 10min 16sec
2. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK) Ford F-150 Evo 10hr 23min 08sec
3. Mutair Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Hani Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan 10hr 37min 00sec
4. Al-Mushanna Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Mazen Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan 10hr 40min 12sec
5. Saleh Al-Said (SAU)/Yasser Al-Shammeri (SAU) Can-Am (T3) 10hr 40min 33sec
6. Muneef Al-Salmani (SAU) Abdulsalem Al-Nammash (SAU) Nissan 10hr 52min 02sec
7. Abdullah Al-Shegawi (SAU)/Waleed Al-Shegawi (SAU) Nissan 11hr 09min 38sec
8. Sami Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Abdullah Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan 11hr 12min 52sec
9. Khalil Al-Tuwaijri (SAU)/Mohammed Alabdelali (SAU) Can-Am (T4) 11hr 12min 58sec
10. Fahad Al-Naim (SAU)/Abdullah Al-Naim (SAU) Yamaha (T4) 11hr 14min 48sec, etc
Ha’il Nissan Rally – positions after SS3 (bikes - unofficial):
1. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (UAE) KTM 9hr 28min 06sec
2. Sultan Al-Balooshi (UAE) KTM 9hr 31min 12sec
3. Ahmed Al-Nasser (SAU) KTM 10hr 07min 24sec
4. Rashed Ali Hassan (UAE) Honda 11hr 26min 30sec
5. Fawaz Al-Toaimi (SAU) Yamaha 12hr 49min 11sec, etc
Ha’il Nissan Rally – positions after SS3 (quads - unofficial):
1. Sufyan Al-Omar (SAU) Yamaha 9hr 29min 21sec
2. Riyadh Al-Oraifan (SAY) Yamaha 9hr 29min 34sec
3. Abdulaziz Al-Shayban (SAU) Yamaha 10hr 32min 21sec
4. Sultan Al-Masoud (SAU) Yamaha 10hr 34min 05sec
5. Ahmed Al-Habri (SAU) Yamaha 10hr 36min 43sec
5. Faisal Al-Oraifan (SAU) Yamaha 11hr 08min 11sec, etc
Source: Neil Perkins / Ha'il Nissan Rally