Al-Rajhi heads massive field into Riyadh Rally on Thursday

Mishal Alghuneim and Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi. (Photo/ Supplied)
Updated 27 November 2019

Al-Rajhi heads massive field into Riyadh Rally on Thursday

RIYADH: Another stunning entry of 47 cars, 14 NUTVs, one truck, 24 motorcycles and 21 quads will line up at the start of the Riyadh Rally, the fourth round of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, which starts in Ad Diriyah on Thursday afternoon.

 Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi heads the car field in his Toyota Hilux, the winner of the recent AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally keen to hunt down current series leader Yasir Seaidan. The latter has a four-point series lead and has switched from a MINI All4 Racing to one of X-raid’s latest MINI JCW Buggies for the two days of desert action around Rumah and the Saad National Park.

While the two Saudi adversaries lock horns in the fight for the inaugural Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship title, competition will come from French legend Stéphane Peterhansel in a second X-raid Buggy, Essa Al-Dossari in an ED Racing Nissan Navara and the experienced Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal in his self-designed Ford F-150 Evo.

 Saudi drivers dominate the car category in various Toyota and Nissan derivatives, while Ahmed Al-Shegawi tops the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles and faces competition from the likes of Salman Al-Shammeri, Yousef Al-Suwaidi and Muteb Al-Shammeri.

 Saleh Al-Saif will be hoping to prevail in the T3 category with his Can-Am Maverick X3, while Yousef Al-Dhaif, Majed Al-Tuwaijri and Fahad Al-Naim top the 14-strong NUTV section.

HIGHLIGHT

  • An interesting name appearing on the entry list in the Kingdom for the first time is that of Dutch navigator Wouter Rosegaar (the former co-driver for Erik van Loon), who sits alongside the talented young Saudi driver Saleh Al-Abdulaali in a powerful T1 Hummer.

Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb continue their pre-Dakar preparations in a Mercedes truck entered in the T4 category.

An interesting name appearing on the entry list in the Kingdom for the first time is that of Dutch navigator Wouter Rosegaar (the former co-driver for Erik van Loon), who sits alongside the talented young Saudi driver Saleh Al-Abdulaali in a powerful T1 Hummer.

 KTM rider Mishal Alghuneim has already confirmed his entry into January’s Dakar Rally and Saudi Arabia’s leading rider tops the 24-strong motorcycle category. Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Balooshi returns to Saudi action after missing the third round of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship and is joined by his brother Sultan Al-Balooshi, Emirati Abdullah bin Dakhan and four additional UAE riders. Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Shatti is also present.

Yamaha’s Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi will also tackle his first Dakar at the start of 2020 and the current leader of the quad category in the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship heads a field of 21 riders that also includes Walid Al-Shegawi and Abdulaziz Al-Shayban.

 The event is organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and supervision of former FIA Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab.

 It runs with the support of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, the General Sport Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.

 The official ceremonial start will take place on Thursday in Diriyah from 15:40hrs and precedes the opening 4km Toyota Super Special stage, starting at 15:45hrs.

 


Fati delights, Jovic disappoints, optimism for Atletico

Updated 30 September 2020

Fati delights, Jovic disappoints, optimism for Atletico

  • Atletico scored 19 fewer goals than champions Real Madrid last season and 35 fewer than Barcelona

MADRID: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will all be hoping to build on their first wins of the season as La Liga heads into its fourth round of games this week.

Here are the five talking points ahead of the midweek fixtures.

For the first time in a long time, Barcelona can enjoy some calm after a 4-0 win over Villarreal in their first match of the season on Sunday.

Lionel Messi scored on his first competitive appearance since attempting to leave in the summer but most exciting was the performance of the 17-year-old Ansu Fati, who scored twice and won a penalty.

Ronald Koeman must decide how to make the most of the teenager, whose maturity on the pitch belies his age and whose body might not be ready to start every week.

But Fati's pace, movement and decision-making are all so impressive it will be difficult to leave him out, as Barca look to build on that win at Celta Vigo on Thursday.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane switched to a 4-4-2 formation during his team's 3-2 win at Real Betis on Saturday as Luka Jovic was deployed up front alongside Karim Benzema.

But the Serbian striker failed to take his chance, instead enduring another underwhelming night before going off with 18 minutes to go.

It remains to be seen whether Zidane persists with Jovic at home to Real Valladolid on Wednesday, or at all, given Madrid could yet decide to let their €60 million (today $70 million) signing leave before the end of the transfer window.

When Eden Hazard regains fitness, that spot next to Benzema will belong to the Belgian so Jovic's window of opportunity may be small. Time would appear to be running out.

Atletico scored 19 fewer goals than champions Real Madrid last season and 35 fewer than Barcelona.

So hitting six against Granada on Sunday offered some early encouragement that this season's Atletico, boosted by the arrival of Luis Suarez in attack, can put those scoring problems behind them.

Suarez stole the show after scoring twice on his debut but Joao Felix was arguably the biggest plus for Diego Simeone, who will hope the 20-year-old's excellent display is the start of a more consistent campaign.

Atletico go up against newly promoted Huesca on Wednesday, the kind of game they slipped up in too often last season.

Even defeat by Real Madrid could not knock Real Betis off the top of the table, as Manuel Pellegrini's team enjoy the benefits of a strong start and more games played than the traditional powerhouses three weeks into the season.

But there is cause for optimism longer-term as Betis began with wins against Alaves and Real Valladolid, before matching Madrid for prolonged spells until their opponents pulled away in the second half.

With the likes of Nabil Fekir, Sergio Canales and Joaquin, this Betis squad has not lacked for attacking talent but solidity at the back has too often been an afterthought.

Villarreal face Alaves on Wednesday, with pressure already on both coaches. Villarreal have four points from their opening three games but a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Barcelona on Sunday, as well as a draw at home to newly-promoted Huesca means Unai Emery could do with a victory.

Alaves, meanwhile, are second bottom after managing just a point from their first three games, with Pablo Machin seeking a first win at la Ceramica.

Valencia have also made a stuttering start, a draw at home to Huesca on Saturday coming on the back of a surprise loss away at Celta Vigo.

New coach Javi Gracia has already expressed disappointment with the club's summer transfer dealings, meaning credit with the board may be lacking if results do not improve.