Top Saudi duo leads staggering entry for Rally Qassim 2019

Saudi ace Yazeed Al-Rajhi in a Toyota Hilux in action during the Rally of Morocco where he finished fifth overall last week. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 15 October 2019

Top Saudi duo leads staggering entry for Rally Qassim 2019

  • Several drivers are keen to test their skills ahead of Dakar Rally next year

BURAIDAH: A staggering entry of 63 cars, 1 truck, 18 motorcycles and 8 quads will tackle this weekend’s Rally Qassim 2019, the second round of the exciting new Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship.

There is strength in depth throughout the entire car field and the three T1, T2 and T3 categories, with Saudi Arabia’s leading cross-country star Yazeed Al-Rajhi topping the entry after finishing fifth overall at last week’s Rally of Morocco.

Fellow Saudi Yasir Seaidan wheels out his MINI All4 Racing, as the two leading Saudi stars go head-to-head across home terrain. Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi is also on hand to challenge for overall honors in a Peugeot 3008 DXR.

There is a strong Saudi influence in the upper reaches of the top 10 with the likes of Essa Al-Dossari, Ahmed Al-Shegawi and Mutair Al-Shammeri, but there is an international flavor to the entry as well, with several drivers keen to test before the Dakar Rally crosses the country for the first time in January 2020.

Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal wheels out his Ford F-150 Evo, Egyptian Yara Shalaby has entered a Nissan and there are entries for Kuwait’s Mohammed Al-Dhafiri and Emirati Abdullah Al-Heraiz.

Saleh Al-Saif tops a strong lineup in the T3 category at the helm of his Can-Am Maverick X3 and faces 12 Saudi rivals – three in Yamahas, one in a Polaris and eight in Can-Ams.

Ibrahim Al-Muhanna won the Hail International Rally back in 2014 with Emirati navigator Ali Hassan Obaid and he drives the sole T4 Mercedes truck, with Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb alongside.

 Using the event as a perfect opportunity to shake down his KTM 450 Rally after the recent Jordan Baja win is the Emirati racer Mohammed Al-Balooshi. 

He leads  an 18-strong motorcycle field that includes other riders from the host country, New Zealand and the UK.

Philip Wilson represents New Zealand, Anthony King is the sole UK entrant, while Emirati Abdullah bin Dakhan rides a Yamaha against a field that includes 14 Saudi riders.

Multiple Hail International Rally winner Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi tops the quad category on his Yamaha. 

The Saudi has won the Kingdom’s premier off-road rally’s quad section for the last six successive seasons — three times on a Kawasaki and three times on a Yamaha - but faces some of his strongest ever competition in Buraidah.

He lines up against the likes of the experienced Sultan Al-Masoud, Abdulsalam Hamam and Yousef Al-Namasi.

The event is  organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, under the chairmanship of   Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, and takes place from Thursday  to Saturday.

It is the second of five rounds of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship with three further rallies still to run this year on Nov.  4-9, Nov. 27-30 and Dec. 12-14 . 

Action at Rally Qassim 2019 gets underway with a short super special stage of 3.55km from 16:10hrs at Wahtan in Buraidah on Thursday afternoon. There will be 347.80km timed against the clock in a compact route of 548.80km.

The event runs with the support of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, the General Sports Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group and Al-Arabia.

How postponing Asia World Cup qualifiers affects Saudi Arabia’s plans

Updated 12 August 2020

How postponing Asia World Cup qualifiers affects Saudi Arabia’s plans

  • With the coronavirus pandemic still active around the world, Saudi Arabia’s games with Yemen, Singapore, Palestine and Uzbekistan will be held some time next year.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s qualification plans for the 2022 World Cup were hit again on Wednesday as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) postponed qualifiers that were scheduled in October and November to 2021.

However, the decision could boost the Champions League hopes of the country’s clubs.

With the coronavirus pandemic still active around the world, Saudi Arabia’s games with Yemen, Singapore, Palestine and Uzbekistan, originally due to take place in March, will be held some time next year.

“With the aim of protecting the health and safety of all participants, FIFA and the AFC will continue to work together to closely monitor the situation in the region and to identify new dates for the respective qualifying matches,” the AFC said in a statement. “Further details on the new dates for the next round of qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup 2023 will be announced in due course.”

It means that there have been no World Cup qualifiers in Asia since November 2019 when Saudi Arabia picked up a crucial 3-2 win over Uzbekistan in Tashkent.

The Green Falcons still have some work to do to finish on top of Group D and guarantee a place in the third stage where 12 teams battle it out for the continent’s four automatic places at the global tournament. The best four runners-up of the eight groups also progress to the next stage.

Hervé Renard’s men are a point behind leaders Uzbekistan, although they have played a game less and will go top if they defeat Yemen in Jeddah in the next game.

It remains to be seen when that will take place and when the second round, originally scheduled to have finished in June, comes to an end and the third stage, due to have started in September, can get going.

“From talking to various federations and hearing their concerns, it was clear that it was best to take a decision as early as possible,” an AFC official told Arab News.

With China announcing in July that it would not host any international sporting event for the rest of 2020 unless it was connected to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and other countries set to follow suit, the AFC felt it had little choice. “The situation was becoming more difficult and complex,“ the official said.

AFC staff admit that, assuming the sporting situation returns to something close to normal next year, then 2021 will be hectic. UEFA has already said that it will add extra games to international windows next year and while that is more difficult in Asia with travel demands, the AFC is looking to do something similar as well as find more spaces in an already-crowded calendar to add more games.

It also means that there will be greater demands on Saudi Arabia as the U-23 team will participate at the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympics next July.

There is a silver lining, however. The postponement of World Cup qualifiers will make it easier for Saudi Arabian representatives in the AFC Champions League.

The 32-team competition was delayed in March after just two games in the group stage and will resume in mid-September in west Asia and a month later in the east.

Clubs had been concerned about squeezing in Champions League games during World Cup qualifiers. This was more difficult in the East where, unlike the West, leagues seasons are coming to an end. The K League, the J.League and the Chinese Super League still have many rounds remaining.

“Delaying World Cup qualification gives everyone much more breathing space to finish the Champions League,” an AFC official said.

It was announced in July that the rest of the western group stage — the tournament is split into two geographic zones until the final — will all take place in Qatar.

All four Saudi Arabian representatives are well-placed after two games to continue to the knockout stage. Al- Ahli lead Group A with four points while defending champions Al-Hilal share the lead in Group B with Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan after two wins. Al-Taawoun lead Group C, with Al-Nassr second in Group D.

The final is scheduled to be held on Dec. 5.