MUSCAT, NOV 26 – The opening round of new rally season was a mixed day for Oman rally driver Zakariya al Aufi. The ace driver crashed out of the opening round of Oman Rally 2019-20 Championship but retained the overall championship in the 2018-19 season.
The Oman Automobile Association (OAA) organised rally on November 15 was the concluding leg of the last season as well as the first round of the new season.
“It was my first roll-over incident in my entire 11-year motor racing career in Oman,” Zakariya told Oman Daily Observer in an exclusive chat.
“During the spectator stage, my car clipped a side during a turn and two wheels turned up with the car got upside down. The glasses were broken but I was not hurt with all the safety precautions taken.”
“Though the car was in a running condition, I was disqualified from the rally due to the damages on the car,” Zakariya said while explaining his crash during the rally.
Despite zero points in this rally, Zakariya took home the overall title with a total of 68 points from the four rounds of the last season. He had earned 25, 18 and 25 points respectively in the first three rounds.
His only competitor for the title, Abdullah al Rawahi, also retired from the round and this confirmed Al Aufi winning the crown for the second consecutive time.
Abdullah and co-driver Jordan co-driver Ata Hmoud could not complete the stage as their Subaru STI broke down after a mechanical failure.
Also to retire were Humaid al Waili and Mazin al Nadabi (Mitsubishi Evo 8) due to technical failures during the stages.
Commenting on the new routes in the Oman Rally, Zakariya said it now resembles Jordan Rally.
“The stages resemble Jordan Rally. It has now become technically more challenging compared to the earlier stages. The Oman Automobile Association has done a good job,” Al Aufi said.
IN CONTENTION FOR MOTORKHANA TITLE
Al Aufi and his co-driver Ammar al Balushi are also leading the OAA Motorkhana Championship.
He said he and Ammar are the only drivers in contention for the Motorkhana title.
Zakariya and Ammar have 43 points each after the two rounds. Zakariya won the first round and finished second in the second one, while Ammar claimed second and first respectively.
The final round will be held on December 27.
Meanwhile, Zakariya al Aamri and co-driver Mohammed al Aamri in their Subaru STI claimed the top spot in the first round of Oman Rally Championship 2019-20.
The first round of Oman Rally was staged at Murtifaad al Mataar (near Airport Heights Muscat) for 8.6 km, Madinat al Arfaan (near Airport Heights) for 10 km and OAA premises for 4 km. Each stage was repeated three times to complete the nine stages.
Zakariya claimed the top podium by finishing in 1 hour 8 minutes 17 seconds, ahead of second-placed Jarah al Touqi by 1 minute 4 seconds. Jarah and co-driver Issa al Wardi on Mitsubishi Evo 7 completed the rally in 1:09:21.
Gaith al Qassimi and co-driver Ahmed Jasim took the third position in their Mitsubishi Evo 6 by finishing in 1:11:00.
Ali Soomar and Taha Soomar were fourth in Toyota Yaris (RC4 class), while Mohammed al Mazrui and Wail al Shaibani ended overall fifth in Toyota Yaris in the same class.
OAA General Manager Suleiman al Rawahi congratulated Zakariya for winning the overall rally title for the second time.
“I congratulate him for the achievement. The OAA will honour the champion during its annual ceremony.”
Stressing on the OAA’s pack of events during the season, Al Rawahi said they need better support from the authorities.
“For us, it would be better if we come under the Ministry of Sports Affairs and get support for the variety of motorsports events that we organise at OAA,” he pointed out.
“Right now the situation is belt tightening for the OAA when it comes to staging expensive events like rally and other motorsports competitions,” he added.