Saudi Arabian driver Essa Al-Dossari and his Emirati navigator Ali Hassan Obaid romped into a comfortble lead of the new Jordan Baja after two selective sections through Wadi Rum to the north-east of Aqaba on Friday.
The ED Racing Nissan Navara driver cruised into an outright lead of 12min 48sec through the longer first section and extended that advantage to 17min 39sec at the end of the day.
“The second stage was so fast. I met some camels as well. I also had a puncture and we lost four minutes, but the lead is a good one for the last day. I am happy.”
Fellow Saudi driver Fares Al-Moshana was the best of the rest in second place in his Nissan Patrol and Motab Al-Shammeri made it an all-Nissan and all-Saudi Arabian top three at the overnight halt.
Fifth-placed Saleh Al-Saif led the T3 category in his Can-Am and the Deaf Rally Team’s Fahad Al-Abdallatif was eighth and led the T2 category. Salameh Al-Gammaz was the leading Jordanian driver in ninth place with his Toyota Prado.
Ata Al-Hmoud was the class of the all-Jordanian motorcycle field on his Beta 390. The former rally co-driver cruised to a comfortable win on the opening stage and extended his advantage to 1hr 19min 17sec over Saif Al-Zyoud on the second Disi section.
“Super. I finished the stage. I tried not to take too many risks and it has paid off. I have a good lead now for the final day. It is only my second event. I did one in Greece in May, but I am still learning.”
Friday – as it happened
The top 10 drivers on the super special stage made their starting position choices in the media centre on Thursday evening and Al-Dossari opted to lead the way into the opening 121.21km selective section through Wadi Rum. Stage winner Saleh Al-Saif was fifth on the road but slipped to the foot of the overall classification when he clocked into Parc Ferme late and incurred a 30-minute time penalty.
All 20 cars started the Salhiyah special, but both Yara Shalaby and Ahmed Al-Shammeri incurred 30 minutes of time penalties for not completing the super special.
Ata Al-Hmoud began to pull well clear of his rivals in the motorcycle category, the former rally navigator using all his map reading experience to press home an advantage. The Jordanian won the first stage to hold a 30min 39sec lead from Khaldoon Halabi. Bader Abdel Jawad was running a long way behind his rivals and eventually retired.
“I suffered before the start because my service got lost and I was late getting my fuel. I got stressed. After 60km, I relaxed after all of us had lost our way at the beginning. The last 60km were perfect. No mistakes.”
Al-Dossari had planned a full attack on the opening special and the Nissan driver was a man of his word. He gradually pulled away from his rivals to finish the timed test 3min 30sec in front of Saleh Al-Saif in a time of 1hr 23min 01sec to snatch an outright lead of 12min 48sec over Fares Al-Moshana.
Speaking at remote service, the Saudi said:
“It was a very nice and fast stage. It was a little bit risky in some ways. The stones make it difficult. My car was prepared in South Africa, so I don’t have any problems with stones. But other cars may have a problem. I hit one stone but I had no puncture.”
“I cannot catch Essa. He has a factory car. But I am enjoying the amazing scenery and the stages and I want to get to the finish.”
Ibrahim Al-Muhanna’s hopes of repeating his 2014 Ha’il Rally victory evaporated when he suffered damage to his Nissan shortly after the start and Raed Al-Anzi ran out of time after suffering overheating issues before the stage start. He returned to the service park to rectify the problem, but was deemed to be OTL when he returned to tackle the special.
Kuwait’s Salem Al-Dhafeeri crashed heavily out of the event around 30km from the end of the section. He was transferred to the nearby field hospital in Beit Ali for treatment for shoulder bruising. Emirati navigator Ali Mirza was not injured.
Palestinian drivers, Tawfiq Hraiz and Ihab Al-Asibi, both retired with mechanical issues and Egypt’s Yara Shalaby returned to Aqaba after her own tribulations. Osama El-Houashla completed the first stage in 11th position but headed back to Aqaba before the shorter second test and Muneef Al-Salmani dropped three hours finishing the stage after his own woes and didn’t tackle the shorter stage.
Fahad Al-Abdallatif moved into fourth overall and the lead in T2, as the leaders headed to the shorter second section of 64.93km and sixth-placed Redha Al-Shammeri changed a rear-right puncture on his Nissan Patrol before retiring.
Al-Hmoud and Al-Dossari stormed off into the distance to claim victories in their respective motorcycle and car categories, but Honda rider Khaldoon Halabi failed to start the second stage and that lifted Saif Al-Zyoud into second place in the two-wheel category at the end of the day.
Al-Dossari lost four minutes with a puncture but still beat second-placed Al-Moshana on the special. Motab Al-Shammeri was third quickest, but Mahmoud Al-Maabda lost a potential top 10 place in the last kilometres of the stage.
The timetable will be reversed on Saturday and competitors will tackle a shorter selective section of 64.65km, starting and finishing in Oweirah, in the morning and the longer 121.14km of the Wadi Rum section in the early afternoon before the ceremonial finish at the Ayla development close to Aqaba.
2018 Jordan Baja – positions after SS3 (unofficial @16.00hrs):
1. Essa Al-Dossari (SAU)/Ali Hassan Obaid (UAE) Nissan Navara 2hrs 12min 56sec
2. Fares Al-Moshana (SAU)/Saud Al-Tamimi (SAU) Nissan Patrol 2hrs 30min 35sec
3. Motab Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Abdullah Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan Patrol 2hrs 47min 22sec
4. Khalid Al-Hamzani (SAU)/Fahed Al-Omar (SAU) Nissan Patrol 2hrs 59min 34sec
5. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Abdulsalem Al-Shameri (SAU) Can-Am X3 (T3) 3hrs 00min 19sec
6. Ahmed Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Eid Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan Patrol 3hrs 02min 45sec
7. Ahmad Al-Malki (SAU)/Omar Al-Lahim (SAU) Isuzu D-Max 3hrs 04min 32sec
8. Fahad Al-Abdallatif (SAU)/Ziyad Al-Harbi (SAU) Nissan Patrol 3hrs 06min 47sec
9. Salameh Al-Gammaz (JOR)/Yousef Juma (JOR) Toyota Prado 3hrs 32min 35sec
Mahmoud Al-Maabda (PLE)/Adrian Tiaha (PLE) Jeep Wrangler RET
Muneef Al-Salmani (SAU)/Jouaan Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan Patrol RET
Redha Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Nasser Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan Patrol RET
Osama El-Houashla (PLE)/Yousef Ilawena (PLE) Jeep Wrangler RET
Malek Al-Hariri (JOR)/Ziad Masannat (JOR) MN 1600 (T3) RET
Yara Shalaby (EGY)/Nouran Ashry (EGY) Nissan Pathfinder RET
Ihab Al-Asibi (PLE)/Akram Abu Zkika (PLE) Jeep Wrangler RET
Tawfiq Hraiz (PLE)/Amjad Al-Nashat (JOR) Nissan Patrol RET
Salem Al-Dhafeeri (KUW)/Ali Mirza (UAE) Nissan Patrol RET
Raed Al-Anzi (SAU)/Majed Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan Patrol RET
Ibrahim Al-Muhanna (SAU)/Osama Al-Sanad (SAU) Nissan Patrol RET
1. Ata Al-Hmoud (JOR) Beta 390 3hrs 36min 03sec
2. Saif Al-Zyoud (JOR) Yamaha WR450 4hrs 55min 20sec
3. Hamzeh Zawahreh (JOR) Kawasaki KX450 5hrs 12min 06sec
Khaldoon Halabi (JOR) Honda CRF 450 X RET
Bader Abdel Jawad (JOR) Kawasaki KLR 650 RET
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Source Jordan Baja's official press release