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Saleh Alabdulali storms into surprise lead in 15th Ha’il Nissan Rally

Saudi driver Saleh Alabdulali and Norwegian navigator Ola 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.

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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.

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Saleh Alabdulali said: “The stage was very long. I am happy to win the stage and to be leading the rally. I want to win now. It is sad that Yazeed is out. I saw him stopped and went to see him. He told me to go, go, go because I could not help him, so I carried on. I have a big lead now so I can take it easy.

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Zapletal finished the stage in sixth. He said: “I enjoyed it. The stage at the beginning was very rough with a lot of stones. I could not drive fast so I took it easy. The second part of the stage was a bit faster. I am happy to be second. I had a problem to go up one of the dunes and, after 140km, we had a problem with the navigation and we lost a lot of time.

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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.

Al-Mushanna Al-Shammeri was fifth and Muneef Al-Salmani switched to a T1 Nissan and holds sixth overall. Khaled Al-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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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

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Ha’il Nissan Rally – positions after SS2 (cars – unofficial @15.35hrs):

1. Saleh Alabdulali (SAU)/Ola Floene (NOR) Hummer 7hr 02min 32sec

2. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK) Ford F-150 Evo 7hr 22min 15sec

3. Mutair Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Hani Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan 7hr 30min 17sec

4. Saleh Al-Said (SAU)/Yasser Al-Shammeri (SAU) Can-Am (T3) 7hr 33min 45sec

5. Al-Mushanna Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Mazen Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan 7hr 34min 40sec

6. Muneef Al-Salmani (SAU) Abdulsalem Al-Nammash (SAU) Nissan 7hr 35min 10sec

7. Ahmed Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Ziad Al-Harbi (SAU) Nissan (T2) 7hr 35min 36sec

8. Majed Ibrahim Al-Tuwijri (SAU)/Raed Al-Mazied (SAU) Can-Am (T3) 7hr 45min 58sec

9. Abdullah Al-Shegawi (SAU)/Waleed Al-Shegawi (SAU) Nissan 7hr 52min 19sec

10. Sami Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Abdullah Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan 7hr 58min 00sec, etc

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Ha’il Nissan Rally – positions after SS2 (bikes - unofficial):

1. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (UAE) KTM 5hr 59min 17sec

2. Sultan Al-Balooshi (UAE) KTM 5hr 59min 20sec

3. Anas Al-Ruhyani (SAU) KTM 6hr 21min 58sec

4. Ahmed Al-Nasser (SAU) KTM 6hr 32min 18sec

5. Fahad Al-Hijab (SAU) KTM 7hr 18min 57sec

6. Jaber Al-Othman (SAU) KTM 7hr 48min 23sec, etc

Ha’il Nissan Rally – positions after SS2 (quads - unofficial):

1. Sufyan Al-Omar (SAU) Yamaha 5hr 53min 33sec

2. Riyadh Al-Oraifan (SAY) Yamaha 5hr 56min 14sec

3. Abdulaziz Al-Shayban (SAU) Yamaha 6hr 24min 27sec

4. Sultan Al-Masoud (SAU) Yamaha 6hr 28min 53sec

5. Abdulsalem Hamam (SAU) Yamaha 6hr 31min 48sec

5. Ahmed Al-Habri (SAU) Yamaha 6hr 33min 46sec etc

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Source: Neil Perkins / Ha'il Nissan Rally press release

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