Al-Rajhi pips Sainz on opening stage of Sharqiya Baja motor race in Alkhobar

Yazeed Al-Rajhi in action on Thursday. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 December 2019

Al-Rajhi pips Sainz on opening stage of Sharqiya Baja motor race in Alkhobar

ALKHOBAR: Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi beat two-time Dakar Rally champion Carlos Sainz by 1.2 seconds to claim the fastest time over an extended opening 6.34km stage at the Sharqiya Baja on Thursday.

Forty-nine cars, 7 NUTVs, 14 motorcycles, 16 quads and 1 truck took the official start of the fifth and final round of the inaugural Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship on Half Moon Bay near Alkhobar.

Driving a Toyota Hilux alongside navigator Michael Orr, Al-Rajhi carded a time of 3min 59.4sec and will be first on the road when the action switches to the open desert on Friday morning. Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz are using the event as a pre-Dakar shakedown in the first of two X-raid MINI Buggies.

Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi finished the stage in third place, 7.9 seconds off the lead, while Czech Miroslav Zapletal and Al-Rajhi’s title rival Yasir Seaidan rounded off the top five.

ED Racing’s Essa Al-Dossari was the best of the rest in his Nissan Navara from Saleh Al-Abdelali’s seventh-placed Hummer and Ahmed Al-Shegawi in eighth.

Zimbabwe’s Conrad Rautenbach and Portuguese co-driver Pedro Bianchi Prata used their PH Sport Can-Am Zephyr for the first time in the T3 category and held ninth place overall and an advantage of 4.7 seconds over 11th-placed Saleh Al-Saif at the end of the stage. 

Salman Al-Shammeri posted the target of 5min 20.4sec in the T2 section for series production cross-country vehicles, but that was eclipsed by Yousef Al-Suwaidi’s run of 5min 12.6sec.

Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb safely negotiated the short special in their T4 Mercedes, while Zakariya Al-Tuwaijri held a 2.6-second lead over Majed Al-Tuwaijri in the NUTVs.

Motorcycles tackled the stage first and Mishal Alghuneim set the target time of 5min 54.2sec on his KTM and that was enough to claim the fourth quickest time on two wheels. The stage win fell to Emirati rider Othman Al-Ghufeli on a Honda with a run of 5min 39.0sec. The Saudi duo of Mohammed Al-Muaikil and Fahad Al-Hijab were second and third.

Sufiyan Al-Omar laid down the gauntlet in the quad category with an unofficial opening stage of 4min 46.3sec and that was 8.9 seconds faster than the time set by title contender Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi. Abdullah Al-Shegawi completed the special in third, but Al-Khulaifi’s main series rival Riyadh Al-Oraifan dropped three minutes and came home in 16th.

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 the supervision of former FIA Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab.

Inclement weather conditions and heavy rain on Tuesday and a poor forecast for the weekend forced Baja officials to make last minute changes to the weekend’s route through the desert. The service park was also moved.

On Friday, competitors tackle a shortened selective section of 197.18km in place of the original 257.44km through the deserts of the Kingdom’s Eastern Province. Saturday’s final timed section has been reduced from 213.10km to 171.25km, so officials have lost around 100km of stage distance due to the weather.


Team UAE rider Pogacar claims maiden Tour de France title

Updated 57 min 19 sec ago

Team UAE rider Pogacar claims maiden Tour de France title

  • Tadej Pogacar youngest man to win the race since Henri Cornet in 1904
  • Pogacar also won three stages in one of the most brilliant individual performances in recent Tour history

PARIS: Tadej Pogacar became the first Slovenian to win the Tour de France after he retained the yellow jersey in the 21st stage on Sunday, a day after he pulled off a major coup to take the overall lead.
While Sam Bennett won the final stage, the day belonged to Team UAE Emirates rider Pogacar, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday on Monday and is the youngest man to win the race since Henri Cornet in 1904.
Pogacar, who claimed the yellow jersey from a stunned Primoz Roglic with a monumental performance in Saturday’s time trial, also won the white jersey for the best Under-25 rider and the polka dot jersey for the mountains classification.
Roglic ended up second, 59 seconds behind, with Australian Richie Porte taking third place, 3:30 off the pace.
“This is an incredible feeling, standing here in Paris on the top of the podium. It was an amazing three weeks, an incredible journey,” said Pogacar after the first one-two for one country since Bradley Wiggins finished ahead of fellow Briton Chris Froome in 2012.
“I want to thank all those who made it happen. It was three memorable weeks on the French roads, with incredible crowds. I won’t find the words to express my feelings.”
Pogacar also won three stages in one of the most brilliant individual performances in recent Tour history, leaving Roglic’s dominant Jumbo-Visma team wondering what went wrong.
“We didn’t see it coming,” said Roglic’s team mate and former Tour runner-up Tom Dumoulin.
Bennett became the first Irishman since Sean Kelly in 1989 to win the green jersey for the points classification, ahead of Peter Sagan who was looking to claim it for a record-extending eighth time.
Bennett was the strongest at the end of the 122-km ride from Mantes-la Jolie on Sunday, beating world champion Mads Pedersen, with Sagan coming home third.
Swiss Marc Hirschi, the former Under-23 world champion was voted the most aggressive on the race after notably taking a brilliant win in the longest stage of the 107th edition.
Ineos-Grenadiers had a Tour to forget as defending champion Egan Bernal dropped out of contention in the Jura stage to the Grand Colombier, pulling out a few days later with back pains.
They recovered some pride later on, however, as Michal Kwiatkowski, their unsung hero for five years, claimed an emotional stage win — although that was certainly not enough for a team who had won seven of the previous eight editions.
It was an anti-climatic finale on the Champs-Elysees as only 5,000 fans were allowed on the famous avenue as a precaution against the coronavirus.
France reported 13,498 new confirmed COVID-19 cases over the previous 24 hours on Saturday, setting another record in daily additional infections since the start of the epidemic.
Reaching the Champs-Elysees was, however, a relief for organizers, who had imposed strict sanitary rules to protect the race ‘bubble’.
The bubble did not burst as only four team staff members tested positive and were removed from the race, preventing a spread that could have stopped the Tour.
No rider tested positive.