Diriyah E-Prix track designed to test drivers’ skills to the limit

Diriyah E-Prix track designed to test drivers’ skills to the limit
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‘Last year it took us 90 days to build the entire track. This year, we only had four weeks to modify the track and build the whole venue,’ says Samer Issa-El-Khoury. (Supplied)
Diriyah E-Prix track designed to test drivers’ skills to the limit
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‘Last year it took us 90 days to build the entire track. This year, we only had four weeks to modify the track and build the whole venue,’ says Samer Issa-El-Khoury. (Supplied)
Diriyah E-Prix track designed to test drivers’ skills to the limit
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‘Last year it took us 90 days to build the entire track. This year, we only had four weeks to modify the track and build the whole venue,’ says Samer Issa-El-Khoury. (Supplied)
Updated 22 November 2019

Diriyah E-Prix track designed to test drivers’ skills to the limit

Diriyah E-Prix track designed to test drivers’ skills to the limit
  • Samer Issa-El-Khoury: ‘It’s a winding track and the drivers absolutely love such snake turns because it challenges both the car and the driver’
  • Issa-El-Khoury: ‘Having a Formula E race in Diriyah, which not only represents the future of motorsports but also emphasizes sustainability and clean energy’

Riyadh: In December 2018, the motorsport public witnessed the birth of Formula E in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the opening race of the 2018/2019 ABB FIA Championship season. This year, they are back for a doubleheader season opener in what promises to be the most competitive season in this sport’s young history.

Arab News sat down with Samer Issa-El-Khoury, who raced against time to oversee the construction of the Diriyah Circuit. An engineer by trade, he is the Managing Partner of CBX, a sports promotion company with exclusive rights for Formula E in the Middle East.

Q. What changes were made to the circuit this year in order to enhance the driver and fan experience?

A. I have been following and attending every Formula E race around the planet in order to bring the best features and improvement to the Diriyah E-prix. From checking the pit structure in New York to the track asphalt in Berlin, hospitality structure in Zurich and fan user experience in Hong Kong, we wanted to incorporate the finest elements in order to make this race a truly memorable doubleheader opening for the 2019/2020 ABB season.

We made a change to the pit entry and created a bigger run-off area at turn 21 to improve competition as well as safety in line with FIA recommendations. We wanted to give more chances to the drivers for late breaking, as this is one of the most challenging circuits with a total of 21 turns. Some of these turns are downhill while others are uphill. It’s a winding track and the drivers absolutely love such snake turns because it challenges both the car and the driver. Only the best can survive on a track such as this one and only the best can win.

Q. What makes the Diriyah E-Prix stand out from other circuits, in terms of track engineering and design? And how will this translate in the two rounds?

A. The beautiful scenery, with Diriyah being not just a UNESCO world heritage site but also the birthplace of Saudi Arabia. There is massive significance in this. What is unique as well is the architecture and design of the Swiss-made and engineered Royal Cube structure which is installed to cater for the VVIP guests, underneath which the cars race. From an engineering point of view, it is something we are very proud of. What is interesting as well is that the Royal Cube was put up in just ten days and features two floors with a beautiful terrace on the third floor overlooking both the track and the UNESCO world heritage site.

Having a Formula E race in Diriyah, which not only represents the future of motorsports but also emphasizes sustainability and clean energy, is 100 per cent in line with Saudi Arabia’s plan and Vision 2030 to be at the forefront of sustainable energy and carbon neutrality. This is a significant message to the world because the Vision’s success will most definitely have global reverberations.

We coordinated very closely with all stakeholders such as Diriyah Gate Development Authority, the General Sports Authority, Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, Formula E and the Diriyah Season office. We served as an important link between all parties involved and we did so proudly because we believe in Diriyah, in Saudi Arabia, and we believe in sports as a core element of the livelihood of any society.

Q. This is a massive undertaking. How long did it take to construct and how many people are involved this time around, compared to last year? How did local and international construction crew and experts work hand in hand to put this together?

A. Last year it took us 90 days to build the entire track. This year, we only had four weeks to modify the track and build the whole venue. That’s less than half the time we previously had. We also built all structures in record time. Building such a track normally requires much longer, yet we’ve completed the entire venue in four weeks this year.

For the 2018 race we had over 3,000 people. This time around we have around 1500 people involved in the operation, all of whom of world-class calibre from world class sports events backgrounds such as the Olympics and Formula One. We have an international team working hand in hand with local Saudi talent and there is a big knowledge transfer. Given there is a ten-year deal to host an E-Prix in Saudi Arabia, we started increasing the volume of local involvement this year and decreasing reliance on international expertise as event-management, talent and suppliers in Saudi Arabia are incredible, specifically so in motorsports.

For example, last year it took us one month to build the pit structure, this year it took us twenty days. This showcases the learning curve of the local team after only one season in, so imagine over the next ten years how exponential the learning curve will be. 90% of the suppliers used during last year’s E-Prix were from abroad, this year we have 80% local suppliers, which represents a huge shift. Formula E and the Diriyah E-Prix encouraged the suppliers to come and set up shop in the country, which is great for the local economy. Hosting the race in Diriyah is creating so many local job opportunities.

Q. Tens of thousands are attending the race and millions will tune in to watch and expectations are elevated, what should they expect?

A. There were doubts last year’s whether E-Prix would be a success or not and whether the drivers and their teams would be happy. Following last year’s success, Formula E along with the General Sports Authotiy decided to do a doubleheader in Saudi Arabia! We therefore have two days of full racing. This shows the level of excitement from the drivers, the teams and the fans. As for the general motorsport public around the world, I cannot properly stress how high the level of enthusiasm is. They will be fortunate enough to see a champion on Friday and on Saturday.

  • Diriyah E-Prix 2019: The thrilling electric race returns with a double-header race weekend – 2 Races on Friday and Saturday, November 22nd & 23rd   

Serena, playing her 1,000th career match, crashes out of Italian Open

Serena, playing her 1,000th career match, crashes out of Italian Open
Updated 58 min 51 sec ago

Serena, playing her 1,000th career match, crashes out of Italian Open

Serena, playing her 1,000th career match, crashes out of Italian Open
  • The early exit is a blow three weeks before the French Open in Paris on May 30

ROME: Serena Williams, playing the 1,000th WTA match of her career, lost on her return after nearly three months away to Nadia Podoroska in the second round of the WTA Italian Open on Wednesday.

The 39-year-old eighth seed fell 7-6 (8/6), 7-5 in under just two hours to the 44th-ranked Argentine, a surprise semifinalist at last year’s Roland Garros.

Williams, a four-time Rome winner and 23-time Grand Slam champion, had not played since her semifinal defeat in the Australian Open this year.

The early exit is a blow three weeks before the French Open in Paris on May 30 where the American continues her bid to equal Australia’s Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam trophies.

Despite a battling performance Williams could not wear down the 24-year-old Argentine who broke the American twice in the first set. Podoroska forced a tiebreak with an ace and squandered three set points before sealing the set.

In the second, Williams was trailing 5-2 but held and broke the Argentine to love while she served for the match to level at 5-5.

Podoroska held her nerve to earn three match points to secure just her third career win over a top-10 player, all in the last eight months.

For Williams it was her 149th defeat, with 851 wins over the course of a WTA career covering 1,000 matches.

But she will not get to celebrate with the Rome public, with spectators only allowed from Thursday’s third round at the Foro Italico while limited to a 25 percent capacity.

Podoroska next meets Croatia’s Petra Martic, who earlier beat France’s Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-3. 


UEFA begins legal battle with Super League holdouts Real, Barca and Juve

UEFA begins legal battle with Super League holdouts Real, Barca and Juve
Updated 58 min 13 sec ago

UEFA begins legal battle with Super League holdouts Real, Barca and Juve

UEFA begins legal battle with Super League holdouts Real, Barca and Juve
  • The maximum punishment under UEFA’s disciplinary pathway is a two-year ban from European competition

LAUSANNE: UEFA on Wednesday initiated disciplinary proceedings against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus, the three clubs yet to renounce the aborted European Super League project.

European football’s governing body has appointed disciplinary inspectors to conduct an investigation regarding a potential violation of UEFA rules by the clubs “in connection with the so-called ‘Super League’ project,”  it announced.

“Further information regarding this matter will be made available in due course.” 

UEFA last week said it would take “appropriate action” against the three clubs who still support the proposed Super League, a competition that would guarantee its founding members involvement every season, instead of having to qualify.

It did not specify the violations that may have been committed, although its statutes prohibit “combinations or alliances” between clubs without the body’s permission.

The maximum punishment under UEFA’s disciplinary pathway is a two-year ban from European competition, while club officials could be banned from any football-related activity.

However, UEFA’s options are clouded by a ruling from a commercial court in Madrid on April 20.

The court banned UEFA and FIFA from making any moves to block a Super League or taking any disciplinary measures against the clubs, players or officials involved.

It is also unclear what penalties the clubs that have withdrawn may owe to the remaining clubs for breaking their agreement to join the Super League.

The Super League was announced on April 18 but two days later it collapsed as the six Premier League clubs withdrew after angry protests from supporters and under pressure from the British government.

Nine of the original 12 clubs have now dropped out.

Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan were on Friday given a financial penalty by UEFA for their involvement.

They committed to taking “all steps within their power” to end their involvement in the breakaway league and agreed to participate in UEFA competitions for which they qualify. They also agreed to pay fines of 100 million euros ($121 million) if they ever seek to play in an “unauthorized” competition.

In response, Real, Barca and Juventus continued to defend the Super League proposal and condemned what it termed “threats” from UEFA.

The clubs issued a joint statement that said “the founding clubs have suffered, and continue to suffer, unacceptable third-party pressures (and) threats.”

“This is intolerable under the rule of law,” they added.

The trio said the Super League had been launched “with the aim of providing solutions to the current unsustainable situation in the football industry.”


Gerd Mueller would be happy if Lewandowski equals goal record, says wife

Gerd Mueller would be happy if Lewandowski equals goal record, says wife
Updated 12 May 2021

Gerd Mueller would be happy if Lewandowski equals goal record, says wife

Gerd Mueller would be happy if Lewandowski equals goal record, says wife
  • Lewandowski hit a hat-trick on Saturday as Bayern were crowned Bundesliga champions before thrashing Borussia Moenchengladbach 6-0
  • Mueller’s wife Uschi says the former Bayern and West Germany star, who suffers dementia, would be happy for Lewandowski if his record is finally matched

BERLIN: The wife of Gerd Mueller says the former Bayern Munich legend would be happy to see Robert Lewandowski equal — but not break — his 49-year-old Bundesliga goal record with the Poland striker just one short.
Lewandowski hit a hat-trick last Saturday as Bayern were crowned Bundesliga champions for the ninth season in a row before their 6-0 thrashing of Borussia Moenchengladbach.
He is now on 39 league goals this season — tantalisingly close to Mueller’s record of 40 scored in the 1971/72 Bundesliga season.
Lewandowski, 32, has two games left to reach Mueller’s milestone — away to mid-table Freiburg on Saturday and home to Augsburg the weekend after on the final day of the season.
Mueller, 75, is currently in poor health and suffering from dementia.
However, his wife Uschi says the former Bayern and West Germany star would be happy for Lewandowski if his record is finally matched.
During his stellar career, Mueller scored a total of 365 goals in 427 Bundesliga games, but has been in a care home since November 2015.
“Gerd would be happy for him,” Uschi Mueller told magazine Sport Bild.
“He would be the first to congratulate him.
“He was always surprised that someone hadn’t caught up with him long ago.
“I am firmly convinced that Lewandowski will do it. He has played a great season, is a hard worker.”
Mueller, nicknamed ‘The Bomber’, scored his 40 goals in 34 games during an incredible season in which he claimed four Bundesliga hat-tricks, as well as scoring four goals in an 11-1 mauling of Borussia Dortmund and five goals in a 7-0 drubbing of Oberhausen.
Lewandowski’s tally of 39 goals is all the more remarkable as he has only played 27 of Bayern’s 32 league games so far this season.
His superb hat-trick on Saturday was his fifth in the league this season, which includes the four goals he netted for Bayern in a nervy 4-3 home win against Hertha Berlin last October.
Lewandowski, voted FIFA’s best male player of 2020, is one of the world’s top strikers having scored 275 goals in 348 Bundesliga matches for Bayern and former club Dortmund.
Mueller’s wife says comparisons between her husband and Lewandowski are pointless as they come from such different eras.
“You can’t compare the two at all. Robert is an athlete, Gerd was an artist,” added Uschi Mueller.
“He was like a rubber ball. Gerd always had two men practically standing on his feet (marking him).
“That is impossible with Lewandowski and his athletic build.”
However, Uschi Mueller also kindly requested that Lewandowski equal, not break, her husband’s record.
“As a wife, I’d rather Gerd kept it,” she laughed.
“Dear Robert Lewandowski, 40 goals is enough.”


Al Jazira claim third Arabian Gulf League title on last day of the season

Al Jazira claim third Arabian Gulf League title on last day of the season
Updated 12 May 2021

Al Jazira claim third Arabian Gulf League title on last day of the season

Al Jazira claim third Arabian Gulf League title on last day of the season
  • Abu Dhabi club’s 3-1 win over Khorfakkan see them hold off the challenge of Baniyas

ABU DHABI: Al-Jazira are the new champions of the UAE after claiming the Arabian Gulf League title on the last day of the season with 3-1 win over Khorfakkan at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al-Nuaimi, chairman of the United Arab Emirates Football Association, crowned the winners of the Arabian Gulf League following a tense title race that saw underdogs Baniyas chase down Al-Jazira to the end.

Also present at the ceremony was Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber, vice president of Al Jazira Club, chairman of the board executive committee, as club captain Ali Khaseif raised the trophy.

“This title win is especially significant as it has been a unique season on and off the pitch,” Al-Jaber said.

“Despite playing without fans in our stadium and other Covid related challenges, we managed to play great football with unyielding positivity, passion and teamwork to win a league title that the Al Jazira family has been pursuing since 2016-2017.”

This is Al-Jazira’s first title win since 2016-2017 and sees the club end the season on 57 points.

Led by Dutch manager Marcel Keizer, the ‘Pride of Abu Dhabi’ fielded the youngest team in the league across the 2020-21 season, scoring 65 goals and conceding just 29 in 26 matches.

Thanks to his 25 goals, UAE international Ali Mabkhout claimed the Golden Boot for leading the goal-scorers chart and now stands just four goals short of becoming the all-time top scorer in the league’s history.

“I am so very proud of all the players, technical staff and everyone associated with the club for their hard work and dedication, culminating in a success, of which we should all be proud,” said Al-Jaber.

“I also want to commend sporting director Mads Davidsen, head coach Marcel Keizer, team director Hussein Suhail and the rest of the support staff, who built a squad that exemplified our philosophy of developing young talent from our academy.

He reserved a special mention to the club's supporters.

“At Al Jazira, we always strive to win every title. It is what the ‘Pride of Abu Dhabi’ passionate fans deserve. And today, we celebrate the return of the Arabian Gulf League trophy to Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium, the home of victories and titles,” Al-Jabber said.

“I would like to dedicate this victory to our fans and thank them for their unconditional support throughout the season. I would also like to acknowledge the club’s many partners. Every member of the Club family appreciates their support.”


Dakar Rally to take place across Saudi desert in first week of January 2022

The Dakar Rally will be raced in Saudi Arabia for the third time in January 2022. (Supplied/Dakar/SAMF)
The Dakar Rally will be raced in Saudi Arabia for the third time in January 2022. (Supplied/Dakar/SAMF)
Updated 11 May 2021

Dakar Rally to take place across Saudi desert in first week of January 2022

The Dakar Rally will be raced in Saudi Arabia for the third time in January 2022. (Supplied/Dakar/SAMF)
  • The 44th edition of the world’s most famous rally, and the third to take place in the Kingdom, will start in Ha’il and conclude in Jeddah

DUBAI: The 2022 Dakar Rally will take place across the deserts of Saudi Arabia between January 2 and 14, it was been announced by Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and the Saudi Arabian Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) in a virtual presentation on Tuesday night.

“Welcome for the third time to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the home of the Dakar Rally, the most famous and toughest rally in the world,” Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al Abdullah Al-Faisal, Chairman of SAMF, said. “Thanks first and foremost to our wise leadership, and guidance of his highness the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the goal of his Vision 2030, the Kingdom was able to attract and host the Dakar Rally for the first time in 2020, after many years when it moved between Africa and South America.”

David Castera, director of Dakar, discussed the main points regarding the 44th edition of the race, which included the start, finish and rest day cities, in addition to the number of stages the competitors will face in January 2022.

He also spoke of the difficulties of organizing the rally in the middle of the pandemic.

“The 2021 Dakar was complicated to organize,” Castera said. “In the middle of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Dakar was one of the few major events that were held at the beginning of the year. All thanks to Saudi Arabia,” he said. “To all the Saudis who have mobilized with us so that the Dakar can happen, this Dakar allowed you to discover new tracks, new deserts, new dunes and all that gave us quite an incredible show. Suspense in the bike race until the last days when we didn’t know who would win. In the car race as well, until two or three stages from the finish, it was very tight.”

The 2021 edition of the race produced 2,300 hours of television action which were broadcast in more than 190 countries, with 4.5 million also following on social media.

The 2022 Dakar promises some new and unexplored routes.

“It will be an edition with a taste of sand, taste of dunes and wide open spaces,” said Castera. We will head south to the Empty Quarter. We had a first little taste of it in 2020, but this time we’ll go deep down in the Empty Quarter and its ocean of dunes.”

May 17 will see the opening of registration for the race, with the course announcement coming at the end of November. The vehicles will be boarded at Marseille harbor in the second week of December, arriving in Jeddah on Dec. 26-28.

On Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, scrutineering will take place in Ha’il.

“Ha’il will be the start city of this 2022 edition, where all the technical and administrative scrutineering will take place as well as the shakedown,” Castera said. “This year will have three for the three classes — bikes, cars and trucks. Then a prologue on (Jan.) 1st, and the real start of this Dakar will be on the 2nd of January in the morning and will head south towards the Empty Quarter.

“We’ll have three stages with 100 percent sand and dunes, including a marathon stage in the middle of the dunes, like in the good old days,” he added. “And then comes a novelty — we’ll go up to Riyadh for a rest day. During that rest day their will be transfer of vehicles that will be put on trucks, and transfer of competitors in planes.”

Week two will introduce four rather difficult stages, and, according to Castera, a lot of navigation, and more dunes.

“We have based this Dakar on mainly sand and dunes,” he said. “Once you’ve gone through all these obstacles, you’ll arrive in the city of Jeddah, which will welcome the podium ceremony before the vehicles board the ship to head back to Europe.”

The director also confirmed that the second running of the Dakar Classic will take place after its launch last year.

“The Dakar Classic was born last January for its first edition,” he said. “We wanted to pay a tribute to the pioneers of the Dakar, to its founder Thierry Sabine. It was way for us all to see those cars that made us dream in the 1980s and in the 1990s. I can already tell you that we have over 60 crews waiting to take part in an edition that promises to be fantastic."

Prince Khalid also said that preparations by SAMF and the organizers will ensure a spectacular viewing for motorsports fans.

“Today, as we edge closer to hosting the rally for the third successive year, our focus is fixed on the future as we call ups the extensive experience we have gained over the last two years, to arrange another exciting edition of the Dakar Rally,” he said.

“We are blessed with magnificent landscape that few countries can rival. This varied and challenging terrain is the perfect location for the Dakar Rally.

“One of the most special things about the Dakar Rally is that it introduces visitors and spectators alike to the true essence of our nation, with its tolerant culture, striking landscape and welcoming people.”