By Sports Reporter
The Hail Cross-Country Rally has attracted a bumper entry of national and international competitors to close out the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. The last off-road event of the FIA calendar year takes centre stage in the north-central region of Saudi Arabia on December 6-11.
Organised by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), the event has attracted 28 entries in the international FIA category, four additional 2022 specification machines, 27 vehicles in the national section, 29 motorcycles and quads and three trucks, with many competitors using the four desert stages next week as a shakedown for January’s Dakar Rally.
The challenging special stages through the neighbouring Al-Nafud desert will decide the outcome of the Drivers’ Championship in the FIA World Cup.
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah is the overwhelming favourite to claim a fifth title after securing four wins in 2008 and 2015-2017 and needs merely to finish inside the points to secure the win.
Toyota team-mate Lucio Alvarez will be chasing outright victory in Saudi Arabia if he has any chance of snatching the title from the Qatari.
The Hail Cross-Country Rally has attracted three works Toyotas, four X-raid Minis, a Ford F-150 for Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal and a BMW X5 for former champion Vladimir Vasilyev.
But the FIA field is dominated by Can-Ams competing in the increasingly popular T3 and T4 sections. South Racing and South Racing Middle East field 10 vehicles out of the 28 on the full entry, including Mavericks for Australian female driver Molly Taylor and Saudi Arabia’s Saleh Al-Saif and Dania Akeel.
There are also four cars running in a separate category with a 2022 specification. Martin Prokop wheels out the latest Ford, there are two Toyota Hilux T1+ versions for Ronan Chabot and Juan Cruz Yacopini and Sebastien Eriksson drives the latest T3 Can-Am.
Saudi and Emirati drivers dominate the National category and the motorcycle and quad sections are completely filled by GCC riders, with the likes of Abdulmajeed al-Khulaifi and Sultan al-Masoud hoping to shine on their home event.
Three trucks grace the entry and will run at the rear of the field. Local driver Ibrahim al-Muhanna (Mercedes) is joined by Japanese veteran Teruhito Sugawara (Hino) and Frenchman Teo Calvet (Tatra).
The event will be fought out over four desert selective sections, with approximately 969 competitive kilometres in a route of 1,753km.
Scrutineering and technical checks will take place at the rally headquarters in Hail on December 6th and 7th, in advance of the ceremonial start at Maghwat, scheduled from 18.00hrs on December 7th.
Competitors will then tackle four desert stages from December 8-11.
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