Poland’s Aron Domzala to defend FIA World Cup lead Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Aron Domzala
Updated 30 March 2017
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Poland’s Aron Domzala to defend FIA World Cup lead Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

ABU DHABI: Little known Polish cross-country driver Aron Domzala finds himself firmly in the spotlight at the forthcoming Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan, which starts with a timed super special stage at the Al-Forsan International Resort on April 1.
The Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux driver began his first ever full campaign for honors in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies in superb style and leads the Drivers’ Championship by 11 points. After claiming victory in February’s Baja Russia across the frozen wastelands of the Republic of Karelia, Domzala and navigator Szymon Gospodarczyk finished a solid sixth overall in the Dubai International Baja, the first of two events being organized by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) in the space of a month.
Now the Pole faces the formidable task of holding on to that lead over five gruelling days of competition in the desert wilderness of Abu Dhabi against some of the most potent rivals in the sport. Double points are on offer for the longer rounds of this year’s championship as well and that places a greater emphasis on good results here in Abu Dhabi, and in Qatar, Kazakhstan and Morocco later in the season.
The winner of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will receive 60 points and both Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi will be targeting the top step of the podium. After five days of competition through the dunes of the Rub Al-Khali, the event finishes at the Yas Marina Circuit on April 6.
Al-Attiyah missed the first round in Russia and began the defense of his FIA World Cup crown with victory in the Dubai Baja. He holds second in the championship from a tying Al-Qassimi (Peugeot) and Russian driver Viktor Khoroshavtsev, who is not taking part in Abu Dhabi.
Drivers such as Qatar’s Mohammed Abu Issa (Mini), the experienced Czech Miroslav Zapletal (Hummer) and former FIA World Cup champion, Vladimir Vasilyev (Mini), will also be eyeing podium finishes to keep their title challenges on track.
The FIA T2 Championship is open to drivers of series production cross-country vehicles like the Nissan Patrol, Toyota Land Cruiser and the Isuzu D-Max in near-standard form. Qatar’s Adel Abdulla claimed the 2016 title from Saudi Arabian Yasir Saiedan after an FIA protest was awarded in his favor following last year’s Rally of Morocco.
The pair are locking horns again this season and Saiedan has the early advantage. In the unofficial T2 standings, the Toyota driver holds a 10-point advantage over the Qatari after the two short events. Abu Dhabi-based Lebanese Emil Khneisser (Nissan) finished second in Dubai last month, but is not registered for the FIA series and that has lifted both Saudi Arabia’s Ahmed Al-Malki (Isuzu) and Emirati Mansoor Al-Helai (Toyota) into striking distance.
All four title contenders feature on the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge’s entry list, alongside Khneisser, Kazakh driver Marat Abykayev (Toyota), Oman’s Abdullah Al-Zubair (Nissan) and Saudi Arabia’s Ahmed Al-Shegawi (Toyota).
Entrants from the UAE and other GCC countries benefited from free entry to this year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, rally founder and president of the ATCUAE, confirmed that the move was made after the request of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan, minister of Culture and Knowledge Development and chairman of the General Authority for Youth and Sports Welfare.
“This is excellent news for the event and the sport in general,” said Ben Sulayem. “Sheikh Nahyan is an avid supporter of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and is keen to continue to attract fresh talent into the sport. We have several regular drivers, like Yayha Al-Helai, who has competed here many times in the past and continues to enjoy his opportunity to take on the world’s best. But his son Mansoor now competes as well and is well positioned to succeed in the T2 category this year.”


Al-Hilal boss Jorge Jesus reveals Omar Abdulrahman will make debut in Super Cup clash in London

Updated 17 August 2018
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Al-Hilal boss Jorge Jesus reveals Omar Abdulrahman will make debut in Super Cup clash in London

  • New boss Jorge Jesus to give start to new star signing after $17 million move from Al-Ain last week.
  • Al-Hilal coach keen to put on a good show in London and start season with silverware against Al-Ittihad.

LONDON: Jorge Jesus confirmed Omar Abdulrahman will make his Al-Hilal debut in the Saudi Super Cup final against Al-Ittihad on Saturday.
The UAE playmaker joined the Saudi Pro League champions last week in a loan deal from Al-Ain that was worth $17 million, a fee that has only been surpassed once in football history. 
The 26-year-old has been training with his new teammates at English football’s HQ at St. George’s Park this week and traveled down to London on Friday with the rest of the team ahead of the showpiece game at Loftus Road.
Abdulrahman has not played since May, when Al-Ain were dumped out of the AFC Champions League by Lekhwiya, and he was not considered for the Arab Club Champions Club on Sunday, but Jesus said the 2016 Asian Player of the Year is line to make his first appearance for his boyhood club this weekend.
“Omar is training with the team for five or six days,” said Jesus. “Intelligent players like Omar learn fast, so that’s why he will be part of the game.”
There are various subplots to the game in west London, not least the fact that Al-Ittihad coach Ramon Diaz comes up against the club that fired him in February. He won the double in the first season in Riyadh and then choreographed Al-Hilal’s run to the final of the AFC Champions League in his second. Now he goes up against Jesus, the Portuguese tactician who replaced him this summer.
“It’s true Diaz could know the players more and this could influence the match, but they are working with my ideas today and I expect the match to be an excellent game,” said Jesus.
Al-Hilal lost the Super Cup the last time it was held in London, losing to Al-Ahli on penalties in a thriller at Fulham’s Craven Cottage ground. Jesus knows this year’s match could provide a launchpad for the season ahead and broaden the appeal of football in the Kingdom. 
“Everybody knows the importance of this match, because we play outside Saudi Arabia,” he said. “It represents the image of our football. We are happy to be present in London and play the Saudi Super Cup here. The eyes of Europe sees London as the center of football, so we need to create a good image of Saudi football.”

Jorge Jesus is looking to get his reign as Al-Hilal coach off to a winning start at QPR's Loftus Road ground on Saturday. 


Jesus will be without the injured Salman Al-Faraj, Abdullah Otayf and Nawaf Al-Abed while national team full-back Yasser Al-Shahrani will undergo a late fitness test. 
“We are missing some players but that should not reduce the importance of some players we have in the squad,” said Jesus. “We have to find our best combination of players to go to the match with.”
Mohammad Al-Shalhoub will captain the side from midfield following the departure of Osama Hawsawi and knows bragging rights are up for grabs on Saturday between Saudi Arabia’s two most successful clubs who have won the top prize in the Kingdom 23 times between them.
“It’s one match, there is no other chance,” he said. “We will do our best to win the cup. We can start the season well if we win this cup. We will fight hard to win, but Ittihad is doing their hardest to win it, too. We are super motivated to show a good level and start with a Saudi Super Cup victory.”
Al-Hilal labored to a 1-0 win over Al-Shabab on Sunday night and know they will need to be much nearer their best against last season’s King’s Cup winners.
“In the beginning of the season, you can have some difficulties,“ Al-Shalhoub said. “Our first home game in the Arab Cup we showed a good level, but we have to me more ready against Ittihad.”