Dakar Rally stars gear up for ‘thrilling’ Saudi race challenge

The first stage of Rally Qassim began in Umm Sidra covering a distance of 170km. Several drivers are keen to test before the Dakar Rally crosses the country for the first time in January 2020. (SPA)
Updated 19 October 2019

Dakar Rally stars gear up for ‘thrilling’ Saudi race challenge

  • French driver Stéphane Peterhansel, a 13-time winner of the Dakar Rally, revealed that he was initially surprised to hear that the competition had been moved from Africa to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Dakar Rally drivers are gearing up for a “thrilling and exciting” challenge when the world-famous desert race is staged in Saudi Arabia for the first time next year.
The Kingdom will host the event from Jan. 5 to 17, 2020 with top racers from around the globe traveling thousands of kilometers through inhospitable terrain in cars, trucks and on quad bikes and motorcycles.
The rally will begin in Jeddah and follow a tough route through desert, sand dunes and mountainous areas taking in NEOM, the Red Sea Project, Riyadh and Qiddiya.
French driver Stéphane Peterhansel, a 13-time winner of the Dakar Rally, revealed that he was initially surprised to hear that the competition had been moved from Africa to Saudi Arabia.
“However, after doing some research, I realized that Saudi Arabia was a very wonderful and suitable country for the rally. It has different terrain types, and I expect us to have a perfect track. The vast desert gives me hope that the 2020 Saudi Dakar Rally will be more thrilling and exciting than Africa,” he said.
Five-time Dakar Rally winner and fellow French driver, Cyril Despres, said that racing in Saudi Arabia would be a new adventure that could only be experienced by those who lived up to its challenges.
“When I heard that the Dakar Rally was moving for the first time to the Middle East, I remembered the words of its founder, Thierry Sabine, who said that if you liked exploring the African continent, you would also love exploring other parts of the world,” he added.

Positive move
British rally raid motorcycle rider, Sam Sunderland, who won his category in the 2017 Dakar Rally, said he was delighted to be participating in the Saudi race. “I believe that this change is good, as I have lived in Dubai for 10 years, having adapted well to the Middle East’s atmosphere.

When I heard that the Dakar Rally was moving for the first time to the Middle East, I remembered the words of its founder, Thierry Sabine, who said that if you liked exploring the African Continent, you would also love exploring other parts of the world.

Cyril Despres, French driver

“Exploring a new area is a positive move for the Dakar Rally, and I am certain that everyone who practices this sport is excited to explore a new ground for racing,” Sunderland added.
ED Racing Team driver, Issa Al-Dossari, said the main reason he had taken part in Rally Qassim was to prepare for the Dakar challenge.
“We will be using two cars in the rally. We look forward to raising the level of preparedness for many coming global events. But this does not mean that we will not compete for the top places.”
Al-Dossari invited sports fans to visit the team’s headquarters at Date City to see equipment and meet its members.
The team must participate in two different cars, the first driven by Al-Dossari with his French navigator Sébastien Delaunay, and the second with Emirati Abdallah Al-Huraiz behind the wheel and Ali Hassan navigating.
The first stage of Rally Qassim began on Friday in Umm Sidra covering a distance of 170 km, with stage two raced over 200 km.
Meanwhile, entry registrations for the Dakar Rally are still open in all categories at https://www.dakar.com/en/the-competitors/register.


Saudi female racing driver to make history by becoming first to compete in the Kingdom

Updated 12 November 2019

Saudi female racing driver to make history by becoming first to compete in the Kingdom

DUBAI: Reema Juffali will create history later this month at the Diriyah Circuit as the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete in an international racing series in the Kingdom.

Reema made her competitive racing debut in October last year just months after a watershed moment for the Kingdom that allowed women to drive.

After a string of impressive performances, she will join the official support race for the Diriyah E Prix, the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY series, as the VIP driver for the double header opening weekend at the UNESCO World Heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh.

“I am thrilled to be the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY VIP driver for the first race of season two. I can’t wait to be out on track racing on home soil for the first time,” Reema said.

Reema Juffali will create history later this month at the Diriyah Circuit. (Supplied)

“The series has highlighted the innovation and progress of motorsport, giving more opportunity for men and women to compete together in cool electric racecars. It’s going to be an amazing weekend and I can’t wait to be out on the grid.”

Reema made history by becoming the first Saudi female race license holder to compete in the TRD 86 Cup at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi in October last year, taking second place in the Silver Category and fourth overall. Her previous racing experience also includes the MRF Challenge in India.

“We are so excited to have Reema join us in Diriyah as our VIP driver. Her progress in her first year of single-seater racing is very impressive. To have the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete in an international racing series within the Kingdom is a major milestone for the sport, and one Jaguar Racing are immensely proud to be able to support,” Mark Turner, the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY Series Manager said.

“The Diriyah Circuit has become the home of watershed moments for the Kingdom. We saw the first female drivers here last year, the first unsegregated concerts, and of course it was the first time that Formula E and the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy had raced in Saudi Arabia,” Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Chairman of the GSA, said.

“This year we will again see more inspiring moments which help show the world the journey the Kingdom is on. I am sure Reema will have thousands cheering her on, as a professional racing driver I shall be one of them.”