Yazeed Al-Rajhi‘s FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas defence did not begin as he hoped as he is skipping this weekend’s season-opening Saudi Baja-Hail in his home country following chest injuries sustained in a skiing accident while vacationing in Courchevel, France.
His vacation came during the three-week break between the Dakar Rally and Cross-Country Bajas opener. According to his doctor’s diagnosis, he suffered a “subtle costochondral injury and fissure fracture right 5th rib anterior mid axillary line with no apparent displacement.”
Al-Rajhi won the 2022 Cross-Country Bajas World Cup with victories in the Italian Baja and Saudi Baja-Hail (also known as the Hail International Rally and simply Saudi Baja), holding a nineteen-point edge over Miroslav Zapletal. He previously won the Baja-Hail in 2009 and 2010.
“Despite wanting to take part in the Baja in Hail, I felt severe chest pain (Tuesday) morning, so I had to go back to my doctor and have more tests done,” stated Al-Rajhi. “Initially, I was not diagnosed with broken ribs but I was diagnosed with edema which caused the continuous pain. The doctors advised me not to take part in the rally until I get better.”
The injury continues a rather brutal four months for Al-Rajhi and his team, who lost co-driver Michael Orr for the end of the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Dakar Rally to leg injuries when their Toyota Hilux caught fire at Baja Poland. Dirk von Zitzewitz filled in for both, and Al-Rajhi went on to win Stage #7 at Dakar but a retirement two days later ended his hopes of a strong overall finish.
Despite the home favourite’s absence, plenty of hard hitters are present at the Saudi Baja including Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah, who won the prologue on Thursday. The race is also the first for the FIA Middle East Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.
Also competing for the World Rally-Raid Championship, Al-Rajhi will hope to be back in action by the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge on 25 February – 3 March. He finished third in the 2022 W2RC T1 standings. His World Cup defence begins with the Qatar International Baja on 16–18 March.