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

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)


Yazeed Al-Rajhi claims narrow victory in Saudi Arabia's inaugural Rally Qassim 2019

Updated 3 min 2 sec ago

Yazeed Al-Rajhi claims narrow victory in Saudi Arabia's inaugural Rally Qassim 2019

  • The Toyota Hilux driver was handed the time penalty by race officials on Friday evening for receiving outside assistance in the stage after his driveshaft issue
  • “I am very happy to win Rally Qassim after the problems we had yesterday with the differential and losing a lot of time,” said Al-Rajhi

BURAIDAH, Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi overcame a five-minute time penalty that had pushed him down to second place to recover, set the second fastest time and confirm victory in Rally Qassim 2019, the second round of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, on Saturday.

The Toyota Hilux driver was handed the time penalty by race officials on Friday evening for receiving outside assistance in the stage after his driveshaft issue. That had lifted Yasir Seaidan into the lead at the restart, but the challenge to Al-Rajhi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr came from Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi on the last day.

The Abu Dhabi Racing driver set the fastest time of 1hr 47min 4sec on the Al-Shamasiya stage in his Peugeot 2008 and he and French co-driver Xavier Panseri reached the finish a mere 10 seconds adrift of Al-Rajhi’s Toyota after an impressive drive.

“I am very happy to win Rally Qassim after the problems we had yesterday with the differential and losing a lot of time,” said Al-Rajhi.

“I enjoyed the rally very much. The organizers did a great job to put on the first edition of Rally Qassim. The number of competitors was very high, even more than some of the international rallies in this region.

“It was tough to lose so much time on Friday. It was difficult to get that time back today because the stages are flat out. I would also like to thank my strategic partner Toyota and Abdul Latif Jameel Motors. The Hilux was in its best place in the desert.”

Seaidan and Portuguese co-driver Paulo Fiuza had to settle for third place in their X-raid-built MINI All4 Racing after finishing the day’s special a little under four minutes behind Al-Qassimi.

Essa Al-Dossari and French co-driver Sebastien Delaunay reached the Buraidah finish in fourth overall on the new off-road event being organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal.

Czech Miroslav Zapletal moved up to fifth in his Ford F-150 Evo, Khalid Al-Feraihi was sixth and Emirati Abdullah Al-Heraiz climbed to seventh in his Nissan when Ali Al-Kharraz lost time and slipped out of contention. The Nissan trio of Ahmed, Faris and Mutair Al-Shammeri rounded off the top 10.

The 11th-placed Yousef Al-Suwaidi confirmed the win in the T2 section for series production cross-country vehicles and Khalil Al-Tuwaijri won T3 and headed a Can-Am 1-2-3 in the category from Yousef Al-Dhaif and Saleh Al-Saif.

Saudi drifting supreme Saeed Al-Mouri teamed up with Lebanese co-driver Joseph Matar, but the Nissan driver was sidelined with overheating issues.

UAE rider Mohammed Al-Balooshi sealed victory in the motorcycle category with the second- fastest time on the last stage on his KTM 450 Rally. The success was the Emirati’s second in the space of a month after his recent win at the Jordan Baja.

Saudi rider Mishal Alghuneim finished second overall, 4min 1sec behind Al-Balooshi, after winning Saturday’s stage in a time of 2hr 30min 20sec. Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Shatti had been awarded seven hours of time penalties for missing waypoints on Friday and he came in seventh. Emirati Abdulla Al-Dakhan and Saudi rider Abdullah Al-Helal finished third and fourth and Briton Anthony King was a distant eighth.

Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi sealed an emphatic victory in the quad section on his Yamaha with a final stage time of 2hr 42in 14sec. That gave the Saudi a winning margin of 1hr 43min 49sec over Riyadh Al-Oraifan. Sultan Al-Masoud made it a Yamaha 1-2-3, despite picking up 90 minutes of time penalties for missing waypoints.

Ibrahim Al-Muhanna teamed up with Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb to guide the sole Mercedes truck to the finish in the T4 category.

Rally Qassim 2019 ran with the support of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, the General Sport Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group and Al-Arabia.


Rally Qassim 2019 – positions after SS3 (cars – unofficial @14.10hrs):

1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Michael Orr (GBR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 3hr 42min 14sec

2. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Peugeot 2008 3hr 42min 24sec

3. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Paulo Fiuza (PRT) MINI All4 Racing 3hr 44min 5sec

4. Essa Al-Dossari (SAU)/Sebastien Delaunay (FRA) Nissan Navara 3hr 53min 58sec

5. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK) Ford F-150 Evo 4hr 4min 52sec

6. Khalid Al-Feraihi (SAU)/Stephane Duple (FRA) Nissan 4hr 5min 2sec

7. Abdullah Al-Huraiz (ARE)/Ali Hassan Obaid (ARE) Nissan Patrol 4hr 34min 26sec

8. Ahmed Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Ziad Al-Harbi (SAU) Nissan 4hr 46min 12sec

9. Faris Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Musa Djiyerian (JOR) Nissan 4hr 53min 19sec

10. Mutair Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Hani Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan 4hr 54min 15sec


Select others

11. Yousef Al-Suwaidi (SAU)/Saud Al-Tamimi (SAU) Nissan (T2) 5hr 1min 3sec

12. Khalil Al-Tuwaijri (SAU)/Waleed Al-Tuwaijri (SAU) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 5hr 2min 3sec

13. Yousef Al-Dhaif (SAU)/Pedro Santos (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 5hr 3min 52sec

14. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Muath Al-Arja (SAU) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 5hr 4min 17sec


Rally Qassim 2019 – positions after SS3 (bikes — unofficial):

1. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) KTM 450 Rally 5hr 11min 11sec

2. Mishal Algunheim (SAU) KTM 5hr 15min 12sec

3. Abdullah Bin Dakhan (ARE) Yamaha 8hr 9min 8sec

4. Abdullah Al-Helal (SAU) Honda 9hr 35min 38sec

5. Waleed Al-Nahad (SAU) Honda 9hr 39min 37sec


Rally Qassim 2019 – positions after SS3 (quads — unofficial):

1. Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi (SAU) Yamaha 5hr 18min 43sec

2. Riyadh Al-Oraifan (SAU) Yamaha 7hr 2min 32sec

3. Sultan Al-Masoud (SAU) Yamaha 8hr 20min 45sec

4. Sufyan Al-Omar (SAU) Yamaha 8hr 47min 47sec

5. Abdulmajeed bin Sumaidie (SAU) Yamaha 9hr 23min 1sec, etc

Rally Qassim 2019 – positions after SS3 (truck — unofficial):

1. Ibrahim Al-Muhanna/Osama Al-Sanad/Raed Abo Theeb (SAU) Mercedes 6hr 43min 33sec