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Saudi Arabia’s Saif handed outright lead of Jordan Baja

By JT - Sep 27,2018 - Last updated at Sep 27,2018

Saudi Arabian driver Saleh Al Saif on his way to winning the opening stage of the Jordan Baja adjacent to the Desert Highway into Aqaba City on Thursday (Photo courtesy of Jordan Baja Media Service)

AMMAN — Saudi Arabian driver Saleh Al Saif was handed the outright lead and the Aqaba super special win after the results for the Jordan Baja had been updated on Thursday evening, according to the Jordan Baja Media Service.

 The Can-Am Maverick X3 driver was deemed to have started the special stage twice and, when the times were corrected, he was handed a stage time of 3min 00.1sec to win the stage from Essa Al Dossari.

Winning gave the Saudi driver first option on a starting position for the first of the desert selective sections through Wadi Rum on Friday morning. 

Saudi Arabian driver Dossari and his Emirati navigator Ali Hassan Obaid had originally won the opening three-kilometre super special stage on a twisty gravel stage adjacent to the Desert Highway into Aqaba City on Thursday afternoon.

The ED Racing Nissan Navara crew set a time of 3min 18.2sec that was sufficient for 2nd place beating Motab and Abdullah Al Shammeri by 16.2 seconds and 

Dossari said: “It was a litle tricky and twisty but we did good. We set up the car for the track and it was fine. Full throttle, maximum attack for the next two days. I am looking to put a gap tomorrow and then have a gap for the second day.”

Twenty cars and five motorcycles were flagged away from the ceremonial start at the Ayla real estate development close to the Red Sea by HRH Prince Feisal, chairman of Jordan Motorsport. It marked the start of Jordan’s first cross-country rally since 1990.

The ceremonial start followed a pre-event press conference held on the start podium with Dossari, Ibrahim Al Muhanna, Salameh Al Gammaz, Malek Hariri, Ala Al Hmoud and Salem Al Dhafeeri in attendance.

Pre-start entertainment was supplied by the Aqaba Folklore Group and there were several spectacular low-altitude passes by a Hawker Hunter and a Viper Jet.

Saudi Arabia’s Redha Al-Shammeri snatched an early advantage in the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles in his Nissan Patrol. Fellow countryman Muneef Al Salmani was second quickest and the leading Jordanian crew of Gammaz and Yousef Juma safely negotiated the opening super special in their Toyota Prado.

The Egyptian female duo of Yara Shalaby and Nouran Ashry were forced to stop the Gazelle Rally Team Nissan Pathfinder in the stage after they clouted a rock, broke a drive shaft or damaged the transmission and the car was moved to the side of the track by event marshals.

“It’s just hard luck, but that is rallying,” reflected the disappointed Egyptian. “We are hoping to fix the problem tonight and see where we are tomorrow.”

Saudi Arabia’s Ahmed Al Shammeri also failed to complete the stage after damaging a front wheel hub on his Nissan Patrol.

Ata Al Hmoud made history by being the first competitor to tackle a stage of the Jordan Baja and he posted a time of 3min 28.7sec. But first blood in the motorcycle category went to Hamzeh Zawahreh on his Kawasaki KX450 with a stage-winning time of 3min 13.3sec.

“I am really happy,” said Hmoud. “It is the first time in Jordan for the bikes at an international level. I used to be a co-driver but I decided to move to the bikes to keep the adrenaline rush. The other four riders don’t have experience of navigation, so I expect to have the advantage.”

Rookie Bader Abdul Jawad fell off his Kawasaki on several occasions on the stage, and carded a time of 6min 05.1sec to reach the finish in fifth place.

Jordanian driver Ibrahim Mhawish was unable to start the event after his Jeep Wrangler failed pre-event scrutineering with a roll cage issue. Palestinian driver Tawfiq Hraiz was a late addition to the field in a Nissan Patrol.

Two selective sections are on the agenda for Friday.

Competitors will tackle a longer opening section of 121.21km that starts and finishes in Salhiyah — 38.77km from Parc Ferme — in the morning before returning to the service park. A second shorter section of 64.93km runs in the afternoon and starts and finishes in Disi, a short distance to the north of Aqaba.

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