Dakar Rally moves to ‘mysterious deserts’ of Saudi Arabia for 2020

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The Dakar Rally will be held in Saudi Arabia from 2020, organizers announced Monday. (Dakar Rally official website)
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Dakar director David Castera described the relocation to Saudi Arabia as "a voyage into the unknown.". (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 17 April 2019
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Dakar Rally moves to ‘mysterious deserts’ of Saudi Arabia for 2020

  • The Dakar has been held in South America since 2009
  • Dakar director David Castera described the relocation to Saudi Arabia as "a voyage into the unknown"

LONDON: The Dakar Rally will be held in Saudi Arabia from 2020, organizers announced Monday, offering contestants an "unknown landscape and uncharted terrain".

"After 30 years of discovering the beauty of Africa and a decade of adventure exploring the spectacular landscape of South America, a new chapter in the history of Dakar will be written as the world's biggest rally makes its Middle East debut in Saudi Arabia," ASO said in a statement.

The Dakar has been held in South America since 2009. The gruelling multi-stage rally was previously held in Africa but was relocated after terrorist threats in Mauritania in 2008.

Dakar director David Castera described the relocation to Saudi Arabia as "a voyage into the unknown."

"By going to Saudi Arabia, it is of course that aspect that fascinates me," Castera said.

"I'm convinced that such a feeling will be shared by all the riders, drivers and copilots. As the director of the event, it's a massive challenge to be faced with a blank page with limitless possibilities."

Castera said Saudi Arabia offered up "a monumental geography, made for the most audacious itineraries".

"We are spoilt for choice. Sports, navigation, a will to surpass oneself: all these aspects will naturally be glorified on this territory made for rally-raids."

Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, Chairman of the Saudi General Sports Authority, said: “The vision and guidance of our leaders have made our dreams and ambitions limitless and have set the sports scene in the Kingdom on a remarkable success route. Today we are thrilled to announce that Rally Dakar, an event with a huge global appeal is coming to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East for the first time.

“Our country is extremely passionate about sport and our strategic goal is to feed that appetite as we move further towards achieving Vision 2030, of which sport is a basic pillar.

“In hosting Dakar Rally we aim to produce an unbelievable and unforgettable experience for drivers as they discover the beauty of Saudi nature and a unique spectacle for motorsport fans not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the region and around the world.”

Chairman of the Saudi Arabian motor federation Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Abdullah Al-Faisal added: “I have always wanted to participate in Dakar Rally. While I wasn’t fortunate to achieve that ambition, I’m now part of achieving a much bigger dream for my country as Dakar comes to the Middle East region for the first time ever.

“The vision and support of Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the trust that GSA president Prince Turki Al-Faisal had put in us were key to our efforts to secure the hosting rights for an event of such a global magnitude.”

On the sporting front, Saudi Arabia has already managed to bring high-profile events to the Kingdom, in a similar vein to the UAE.

Saudi Arabia has recently hosted the WWE Crown Jewel, a Formula-E race on the streets of Riyadh and January's Italian Super Cup between AC Milan and Juventus, while an exhibition match between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in December was called off because the latter was injured.

George Groves and Callum Smith battled it out for the WBA super-middleweight and World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) titles in Jeddah, while American Dustin Johnson won the European Tour's inaugural Saudi International in February.

(With Agencies)


Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal into Monte Carlo last eight

Updated 18 April 2019
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Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal into Monte Carlo last eight

  • Medvedev eliminates 6th seed Tsitsipas in three sets

MONTE CARLO: Top seed Novak Djokovic and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal showed no mercy in dominating wins to power into the Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinals on Thursday.

Djokovic extended his winning streak against US players with a 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Taylor Fritz.

The two-time tournament champion has now won nine in a row over Americans since losing at Wimbledon in 2016 to Sam Querrey.

“It was very challenging to play in these (windy) conditions,” Djokovic said. “Taylor just flattens the ball.

“We had five, six close games in the first set, I just managed to break his resistance midway through.

“After that, things went on my side and I felt more comfortable.

“This was one of these days where you just have to hang in there and try to put an extra ball back in the court — that was enough.”

Nadal repeated last year’s semifinal win over Grigor Dimitrov, beating the Bulgarian for the 12th time, 6-4, 6-1.

“I’m very, very happy, this is an important victory for me,” the second seed said after winning his 23rd consecutive set at the tournament.

“Grigor is a super talent and is very dangerous. It was a positive match for me.

“I had a good day, I can be happy with what I did on court.

“When you don’t play on clay for almost a year, every win is important for the confidence, especially as I’m coming back from injury.”

Spain’s 17-time Grand Slam champion started his clay season this week after missing a month with another knee problem and has title-holder points to defend here plus Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros.

The king of clay is bidding for a 12th trophy in the principality. His record at the event is a staggering 70-4.

Nadal spent almost an hour in securing the first set but picked up the pace in the second as he ran out the winner.

He next faces Guido Pella, who defeated Italy’s Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

World No. 1 Djokovic will be playing his ninth quarterfinal here from 13 appearances at his home event.

Djokovic turned in a steady performance with a dozen winners and unforced errors, while his opponent committed nearly 30 unforced errors in 68 minutes.

Sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas earlier lost 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 as Daniil Medvedev continued his run of form.

The Russian will next line up against Djokovic after losing to him in January in the Australian Open fourth round.

Tsitsipas was caught on the back foot facing three match points as he trailed 0-40 on his serve late in the second set. After saving the first two, the Greek botched the third to seal his exit after an hour and three-quarters.

Medvedev increased his leading total of ATP season match wins to 20 as a result after he beat Tsitsipas for the fourth time in as many attempts.

“This was a great achievement for me,” Medvedev said. “Everything was perfect today.

“Some wind came up in the second set and I could not get used to it. But in the third, I just worked to put every ball in the court.

“I was pleased to fight back after going a break down in the third set.”

The player who stands a career-high 14th credits his rising form to a renewed dedication to the sport.

“I’ve been working hard for the past 18 months —  since before the start of 2018. I’ve dedicated my life to tennis, which I did not do before,” Medvedev said.

“I had my best season last year — hopefully this year will be better.”

The Russian reached his first quarterfinal at the Masters 1000 level after winning his second match against a Top 10 opponent.

Tsitsipas, runner-up last season to Nadal in Toronto, suffered his eighth defeat of the season against 18 wins and will try and lift his game next week on the clay of Barcelona. 

Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego defeated Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-2, 7-5.