RIYADH: Saudi ED rally team captain Essa Al-Dossari has been forced out of next month’s Dakar International Rally after injuring his back in a lead-up event in the Kingdom.
The Saudi driver fractured a vertebrae when his car became airborne and landed heavily during the second stage of the Sharqiya Baja rally, the final round of the Saudi Desert Rally Championship, held in the Eastern Province.
Medical specialists told Al-Dossari the injury will require four months’ rest, effectively ruling him out of Dakar Rally starting on Jan. 5.
More than 300 international teams are due to compete in the 12-day rally to be held in Saudi Arabia, the first time the event will be staged in the Middle East.
Al-Dossari was in third place behind eventual winner Yazid Al-Rajhi and reigning Dakar champion Carlos Sainz when his car landed heavily, injuring both the Saudi driver and his French assistant Sebastien Delaunay.
The Saudi ED captain insisted on completing the race to confirm his third placing in the championship rankings, but went to hospital immediately afterwards.
Al-Dossari’s third-place finish came despite his failure to compete in all the rounds. Several world champions led by Spain’s Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz and Frenchman Peter Hansel took part in the tournament.
Earlier this year Al-Dossari took the first Gulf position in the Abu Dhabi Desert Rally.
Before his injury he was completing preparations to join the largest rally event hosted by Saudi Arabia, competing in the Navara Pickup Class T1, prepared and equipped by the South African Red Line team.
Meanwhile, Saudi driver Ibrahim Al-Muhanna strengthened his Dakar rally claims by winning the Saudi Desert Rally Championship in the T4 truck category.
Backed by his crew, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abu Deeb, the Security Forces Officers Club team captain gained 150 championship points over five rounds held in Asir, Al-Qassim, AlUla-Neom, Riyadh and the Eastern Region without being subjected to violations or temporary penalties.
Al-Muhanna’s Saudi Desert Rally win adds to his Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar victories in recent years, and makes him the only driver to collect all Gulf championships.
The Security Forces Officers Club team will include rising navigator Raed Abu Deeb in its plans for the Dakar Rally, which will feature 45 specialized truck teams.
The rally will begin in Jeddah and end in Qiddiya, outside Riyadh, covering a distance of 7,800 km.