Saudi Arabian driver Yasir Seaidan looking for podium finish in Dubai rally race

Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Seaidan is competing this weekend in the Dubai International Baja. (Screenshot)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Saudi Arabian driver Yasir Seaidan looking for podium finish in Dubai rally race

DUBAI: Be it brakes, bones or personal bests, cross-country rally drivers are accustomed to breaking things. Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Seaidan, however, is out to break something else this weekend at the Dubai International Baja.
Seaidan, who is competing in his third season of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, is intent on breaking the cycle and escaping from the fifth-place ranking that has come to be his own.
Fifth overall in last year’s championship, the 40-year-old finished fifth again in the opening round of the season in last month’s Baja Russia — Northern Forest. When he lined up on Thursday for the opening ceremony at Dubai Autodrome in his Toyota Hilux Overdrive — seeded fifth, naturally — he will be thinking only of the podium.
“Dubai is the only Baja with dunes and I’m good on dunes,” said Seaidan ahead of the three-day event that runs through the unforgiving Al Qudra desert. “The weather is perfect there at this time of year so I can be quite confident. Last year, I competed in the T2 category and finished third, so although I’m competing in T1 this year, I hope to do that again.”
His highest finish in the T1 category is, somewhat predictably, fifth. “I really hope I’m not stuck in this position,” he added.
According to organizers, the event will feature 88 drivers from 19 countries, competing in a range of vehicles, from T1 and T2 to quads, bikes and buggies. Seaidan, who started racing quads in 2002 before switching to cars in 2012, balances his racing career with senior roles in real estate, tourism and a motorsport company.
“To be racing all the year round for sure makes me need to work harder when I go back to the office,” he said. “But I’m trying to do my best to balance racing and working. My colleagues take some interest, but most believe that racing is too hard for them.”
The same cannot be said for Saudi Arabia’s newly-empowered female population. Soon to be permitted to drive unaccompanied, Saudi women are starting to show an interest in racing too. Seaidan says he will not be surprised if one day in the not-too-distant future, he is preparing to race in a field that includes women from his native country.
“Some girls in Saudi Arabia have already started asking how they can be a rally driver, so I believe in a few years you will see Saudi girls racing, yes,” he said.
It would be another milestone in what is proving a burgeoning motorsports industry in the Kingdom. Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, a 34-year-old racing driver and Red Bull athlete, has been given the role of vice-chairman of the General Authority of Sport and last month Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium hosted the annual two-day Race of Champions. Although it was incorrectly billed as the country’s first international motorsport event, it was the first time in the event’s 30-year history that it had taken place in the Middle East.
“Everybody in Saudi Arabia loves motorsport, so the Race of Champions is just one more thing we can be proud of,” said Seaidan. “We currently have three rallies and the Saudi Motorsports Federation plans to increase this to five by next year. In 2008, the country hosted the Hail Baja (the opening round of that season’s FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas), so I’m sure with the way things are going the federation will be planning to bring it back to the calendar soon.”
Saudi also has the Reem International Circuit on the outskirts of Riyadh.
“I think the future is bright for Saudi motorsport,” said Seaidan, “But first I need to do a good job in Dubai and get that podium.”

60 SECONDS WITH SEAIDAN
Favorite Driver: Jean-Louis Schlesser, French racing driver who has competed in touring cars, sports cars, cross-country and Formula One. Although he only competed in one F1 grand prix, he is renowned as the driver who stopped McLaren completing a perfect season in 1988. While being lapped by Ayrton Senna, Schlesser locked his brakes, crashed into the Brazilian and ended the race leader’s afternoon.
Jean-Louis Schlesser


Favorite Race: Rallye Oilibya du Maroc. One of the most visually stunning races on the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country calendar, the Moroccan event is often cited as Africa’s greatest rally race. First held in 2000, the event is set amid the Atlas Mountains and has been won a record four times by Schlesser. Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah equalled the Frenchman’s record last year and is expected to return this October to try and claim it for himself.
Rallye Oilibya du Maroc. (AFP)

 


Arsenal, Chelsea win in Europa League as Rangers hold Villarreal

Aubameyang opened the scoring in London after 32 minutes of the Group E encounter. (Reuters)
Updated 21 September 2018
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Arsenal, Chelsea win in Europa League as Rangers hold Villarreal

  • I think we played well in the first half and in the beginning of the second as well: Aubameyang
  • Chelsea made a winning start to their Group L campaign as Willian's seventh-minute effort was enough to see off PAOK

PARIS: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck twice as Arsenal defeated Ukraine's Vorskla Poltava 4-2 in the Europa League on Thursday, while in-form Chelsea began their campaign with a 1-0 win away to PAOK in Greece.
Aubameyang has struggled to hit top gear in the Premier League so far with just one goal in five starts, but the Gabon striker opened the scoring in London after 32 minutes of the Group E encounter.
Danny Welbeck nodded in a second just after half-time and Aubameyang curled in the Gunners' third, with Mesut Ozil also on target before a lapse in concentration saw Vorskla hit back with two late goals.
"I think we played well in the first half and in the beginning of the second as well," Aubameyang told BT Sport.
"We have to improve and try to fight not to concede a goal like we did in the last minute."
Premier League leaders Chelsea made a winning start to their Group L campaign as Willian's seventh-minute effort was enough to see off PAOK at a hostile Toumba Stadium.
Eden Hazard was omitted from the Chelsea squad at his own request due to fatigue, but manager Maurizio Sarri fielded a strong side as the Blues extended their winning run to six games in all competitions.
"We were in control of the match for 90 minutes. We had a lot of opportunities. We missed them and so I'm very happy with the three points, very happy with the performance, but not very happy with the result," said Sarri.
"When it's time to kill the match, we have to kill the match."
Steven Gerrard's Rangers acquitted themselves well on their first appearance in the group stage of a European competition since the 2010-11 Champions League, as they came away with a 2-2 draw against Villarreal.
A disastrous start for the Glasgow side saw Carlos Bacca fire Villarreal ahead inside 60 seconds, but Scott Arfield turned home a cross from Daniel Candeias to level on 67 minutes.
Gerard Moreno put the hosts back in front almost immediately, only for Kyle Lafferty to again hit back for Rangers as Gerrard's men made a solid start in Group G.
Leigh Griffiths hit a late winner for Celtic in a 1-0 home victory over Rosenborg, a team Brendan Rodgers' side knocked out in this season's Champions League qualifying rounds.
Salzburg triumphed in the clash of Red Bulls in the other Group B fixture as Fredrik Gulbrandsen scored a minute from time to give the Austrian club a 3-2 victory over RB Leipzig.
Marseille, last season's runners-up, slumped to a 2-1 home defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt in Group H as Luka Jovic grabbed an 89th-minute winner for the reigning German Cup champions.
Lucas Ocampos opened the scoring early for Marseille, who were playing behind closed doors at the Stade Velodrome after numerous crowd incidents last season.
But Lucas Torro levelled on 52 minutes for Eintracht before Jovic's late strike won it.
Dudelange, the first Luxembourg team to play in the Europa League group stage, made seven-time European champions AC Milan work hard for a 1-0 win in Group F.
Luxembourg's Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa were in the crowd as Dudelange, who have a dozen non-professional players in their squad, succumbed to a deflected second-half goal by Gonzalo Higuain.
Record five-time winners Sevilla launched their Group J campaign with a 5-1 rout of Standard Liege, as Ever Banega and Wissam Ben Yedder both netted twice for the Spaniards.