RIYADH: Another stunning entry of 47 cars, 14 NUTVs, one truck, 24 motorcycles and 21 quads will line up at the start of the Riyadh Rally, the fourth round of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, which starts in Ad Diriyah on Thursday afternoon.
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi heads the car field in his Toyota Hilux, the winner of the recent AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally keen to hunt down current series leader Yasir Seaidan. The latter has a four-point series lead and has switched from a MINI All4 Racing to one of X-raid’s latest MINI JCW Buggies for the two days of desert action around Rumah and the Saad National Park.
While the two Saudi adversaries lock horns in the fight for the inaugural Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship title, competition will come from French legend Stéphane Peterhansel in a second X-raid Buggy, Essa Al-Dossari in an ED Racing Nissan Navara and the experienced Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal in his self-designed Ford F-150 Evo.
Saudi drivers dominate the car category in various Toyota and Nissan derivatives, while Ahmed Al-Shegawi tops the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles and faces competition from the likes of Salman Al-Shammeri, Yousef Al-Suwaidi and Muteb Al-Shammeri.
Saleh Al-Saif will be hoping to prevail in the T3 category with his Can-Am Maverick X3, while Yousef Al-Dhaif, Majed Al-Tuwaijri and Fahad Al-Naim top the 14-strong NUTV section.
Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb continue their pre-Dakar preparations in a Mercedes truck entered in the T4 category.
An interesting name appearing on the entry list in the Kingdom for the first time is that of Dutch navigator Wouter Rosegaar (the former co-driver for Erik van Loon), who sits alongside the talented young Saudi driver Saleh Al-Abdulaali in a powerful T1 Hummer.
KTM rider Mishal Alghuneim has already confirmed his entry into January’s Dakar Rally and Saudi Arabia’s leading rider tops the 24-strong motorcycle category. Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Balooshi returns to Saudi action after missing the third round of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship and is joined by his brother Sultan Al-Balooshi, Emirati Abdullah bin Dakhan and four additional UAE riders. Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Shatti is also present.
Yamaha’s Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi will also tackle his first Dakar at the start of 2020 and the current leader of the quad category in the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship heads a field of 21 riders that also includes Walid Al-Shegawi and Abdulaziz Al-Shayban.
The event is organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and supervision of former FIA Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab.
It runs with the support of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, the General Sport Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.
The official ceremonial start will take place on Thursday in Diriyah from 15:40hrs and precedes the opening 4km Toyota Super Special stage, starting at 15:45hrs.