Al-Rajhi, Al-Omar and Al-Masoud lead after opening stage of Riyadh Rally

Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr in a Toyota Hilux in action during the start of Riyadh Rally. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 29 November 2019

Al-Rajhi, Al-Omar and Al-Masoud lead after opening stage of Riyadh Rally

  • Forty-four cars, 12 NUTVs, 19 motorcycles, 18 quads and one truck passed the screening and started the event
  • Competitors will tackle a challenging 307km selective section through the deserts around neighboring Rumah on Friday

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Sufyan Al-Omar  and Sultan Al-Masoud led their respective car, motorcycle and quad categories after the opening Toyota super special stage at the Riyadh Rally, round four of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, on Thursday afternoon.

Al-Rajhi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr opened their account with the fastest time of 2min 20.6sec for the four-kilometer stage, and that put the Toyota Hilux crew 17.8 seconds quicker than Yasir Seaidan in his new MINI JCW Buggy. The current leader of the Saudi Toyota Desert rally series finished the stage in fifth position.

Dakar legend Stéphane Peterhansel was forced to switch co-drivers at the 11th hour after his wife Andrea failed a stringent pre-race medical check in Germany. Her place in one of two X–raid Buggies was taken by Portugal’s Paulo Fiuza. The Frenchman carded a time of 2min 28.9sec to hold third.

Peterhansel pointed out: “Right after the press conference last week in Paris, we had our yearly X-raid medical check. As there was not so much time left until the rally in Saudi Arabia we, X-raid and the doctor, decided to wait for the results and evaluations before Andrea gets back in a rally car. I have known Paulo for a long time through X-raid. We also know each other from the X-raid team trainings and he knows the terrain in Saudi Arabia from past events.”

Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal completed the stage in second place in his self-designed Ford F-150 Evo, 6.7 seconds behind leader Al-Rajhi. ED Racing’s Essa Al-Dossari was fourth and Ahmed Al-Qashimi rounded off the top six.

Reda Al-Shammeri led the T2 section for series-production cross-country vehicles by just 1.5 seconds from Yousef Al-Suwaidi.

Shaker Al-Tuwaijry topped the times in T3 in his Can-Am and Saleh Al-Saif led the NUTV category by 2.9 seconds in his Can-Am Maverick X3 from Yousef Al-Dhaif. Majed Al-Tuwaijri and Khalil Al-Tuwaijri tied to round off the top three.

Local rider Sufyan Al-Omar rode his Yamaha to the fastest time in the motorcycle section from Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Shatti and fellow Saudi Abdullah Al-Malki. Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Balooshi, Saudi Arabia’s leading rider Mishal Alghuneim, Kiwi Philip Wilson and Al-Balooshi’s brother Sultan rounded off the top six. 

Sultan Al-Masoud set the unofficial quickest time among the quads to head Majed Al-Shegawi and series leader Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi at the overnight halt.

The Saudi trio of Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb completed the stage in a Mercedes truck entered in the T4 category in 3min 33.2sec.

Forty-four cars, 12 NUTVs, 19 motorcycles, 18 quads and one truck passed all the scrutineering and technical checks and started the event, which is being 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.

The rally 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.

Friday, competitors will tackle a challenging 307km selective section through the deserts around neighboring Rumah.


Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

Updated 20 January 2020

Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

  • The 38-year-old is the only player to have scored at least league 15 goals in each of the last 14 seasons

MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to form has coincided with Juventus taking a firm grip on Serie A.

Ronaldo did not score at all in November, but he scored twice as Juventus beat Parma 2-1 on Sunday to take his tally to 11 in his last seven league matches.

The win also put Juventus on course for a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title as the Bianconeri moved four points above Inter Milan. They were two points behind the Nerazzurri a month and a half ago.

Ronaldo has struggled with injury this season and missed three Serie A matches, playing through pain in others.

The 38-year-old Portugal forward has nevertheless scored 16 goals in 17 matches, becoming the first Juventus player to have that many goals after 20 matches since Omar Sivori in 1960.

Ronaldo is also the only player to have scored at least 15 goals in one of Europe’s top five leagues in each of the last 14 seasons.

“Cristiano is in another class,” Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said. “Sometimes he poses you a little bit of a problem but he will solve 100 others for you.”

While Juventus managed to grind out results in November when Ronaldo wasn’t scoring, Inter struggle when their top scorers are not on form.

There have been three matches since December where neither Romelu Lukaku nor Lautaro Martínez have managed to find the back of the net. All three ended in draws.

The latest was a surprise 1-1 result at relegation-threatened Lecce on Sunday.

That is also down to a general drop in pace in the team as, prior to that, Inter had managed to win the previous four matches where Lukaku and Martínez didn’t score.

“The final result stems from the fact that we’re a team that needs to go at 200 kph. We cannot afford to be off the pace,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said. “It’s evident that if we go at an average pace, if we go into cruise speed, we become a normal team and aren’t able to get a result.”

Substitute

Mario Balotelli’s match lasted only seven minutes on Sunday and he could now find himself with even less playing time in the coming weeks.

Balotelli came on as a substitute in the 74th minute of Brescia’s 2-2 draw against Cagliari but shortly afterward was shown a yellow card for a high tackle and then immediately shown a second after repeatedly swearing at the referee.

Depending on what referee Antonio Giua writes in his report, Balotelli could be suspended for several matches.

The forward will certainly miss Brescia’s next match, against former team AC Milan.

“I think the yellow card was too harsh. Mario didn’t feel it was right, and his protests didn’t seem excessive to me,” Brescia coach Eugenio Corini said. “It’s a pity because he came on with the desire to make us win the match.”

Balotelli was banned for the first four matches of the Serie A season following a red card in his last match with Marseille last season.

“It’s incredible how one episode can always drastically change from too negative or too positive everyone’s opinion on the character or professionalism of a person,” Balotelli wrote on his Instagram story after the match. “I will continue with my daily work this time, too. It’s not a problem. You can continue to judge me as you wish.”