We’re here to race and win, says Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 driver Talal Bader

Talal Bader, right, with his co-pilot. (Photo courtesy: TB Motorsports)
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Updated 19 December 2019

We’re here to race and win, says Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 driver Talal Bader

  • The Saudi rally driver’s love of cars has driven him to dream and make great strides in his young career
  • The Saudi rally driver’s love of cars has driven him to dream and make great strides in his young career

JEDDAH: With his sights on completing what is known as the most dangerous motor sport in the world, Talal Bader, Saudi Arabia’s youngest Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 driver, is making his way in the racing world.

Founded in 1978, the Dakar Rally is the brainchild of Thierry Sabine and considered motor sport’s ultimate endurance race. For four decades, the Dakar Rally has been the ultimate off-road sport for adventure seekers.

With a passion for motor sport  from a young age, Bader dreamt of engines and cars, watching rally races on weekends. His love of cars has driven him to dream big and make great strides in his young career. There have been a few hurdles along the way, but not enough for his love of the sport to waver.

His dream was to become an automotive engineer and work for one of the major car companies — Jaguar or Land Rover. However, Bader changed career paths to become a successful entrepreneur by the age of 19.

“I ventured into the business world, I wanted to get into cars but in a smart way. I was buying, collecting and selling cars and made a profit. I focused on my work and as I was very athletic, I found a balance between my business and workout regimen.”

An aggressive power lifter, a skier and European cross-country cyclist, Bader built his endurance and strength through years of vigorous training, not knowing that this would pay off later.

After a series of events in 2017 and 2018 forced the athlete and entrepreneur to rethink his career path, he found the sign he needed to involve himself again in the world of motorsports.

It was after the announcement of the Saudi Rally Championship and Saudi Dakar 2020 in early 2019 that the young entrepreneur realized what he needed to do. “I asked myself what am I doing with my life? I realized that I really wanted to get into rallying, regardless of the cost,” Bader said.

“At that point I had already researched and made contacts with the right people; it was a very clear sign that this is what I needed to do right now. I bought a car from Ahmed Al-Sabban who has been in the rally game since the late 80s, attended a rallying school in the UK, learned a lot about the limitations of the car from the owner himself, bought a race simulator at home where I would practice for at least an hour a day and started rally-specific training.”

Under the umbrella of the General Sports Authority, Bader was selected by the Leadership Development Institute, which sponsored the young driver. Under Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, the Saudi Arabia Motor Federation (SAMF) provides support to Saudi drivers to incentivize them to participate in local rallies and push them toward furthering their careers in rally racing.

Under TB Motorsports, an athletics platform and motorsports initiative founded by Bader in July 2019, he competed in four rallies this year in national off-road championships organized by SAMF.

Earlier this month, the 24-year-old was chosen to be one of six Saudi Dakar rally drivers to participate in the event.

Staying true to its founding principles, Dakar allows amateurs to rub shoulders and battle it out with professionals, many of whom have years of experience and training. With Dakar in sight, the young driver’s participation in many of this years’ local rallies and championships has him mentally and physically prepared for the harsh array of environments.

“The rallies themselves that we competed in are part of our training. You have a road book, a co-pilot and there’s a lot of pressure so the rallies themselves play a major role in the training for Dakar,” Bader said.

His training covered 6,000km across varied terrain in Saudi Arabia using a range of vehicles. His choice of vehicle for the rally is the Can-Am X3 Maverick, which he describes as a lightweight vehicle and a good solid car.

“We’re renting the car from a French team, which built the Can-Am from scratch. The car has a very good reputation in Dakar as its very reliable, relatively easy to drive and comfortable compared to other cars,” Bader said. “The only issue is that its top speed is limited to 130 km per hour. It may be a bit tiring when we have long and fast stages and road sections.”

Extending over 7,500 km of Saudi Arabia’s vast and unexplored desert, Bader is confident that he will be able to handle the different terrains with ease.

“It’s not about speed, it’s about finishing the race with the least amount of mistakes possible. You need to make sure you don’t flip over, get stuck, and it is mostly about risk aversion. That is our goal for the first year and once we get that experience and understand what the race is really about, I think in the coming years we’ll be able to compete,” Bader said.


Mind games begin ahead of the return to Saudi football as Hilal boss Lucescu challenges Nassr coach

Updated 03 August 2020

Mind games begin ahead of the return to Saudi football as Hilal boss Lucescu challenges Nassr coach

  • Victory in this Riyadh Derby will take the three-time Asian champions nine points clear of Al Nassr with just seven games remaining
  • There has been good and bad news for Al Nassr as Brazilian centre-back Maicon Pereira has arrived in Riyadh from Galatasaray and has been cleared to play

DUBAI: There may have been no football in Saudi Arabia for five months but the mind games are in full flow as ahead of the crucial top of the table clash in the Saudi Pro League on Wednesday, Al Hilal boss Razvan Lucescu has told Al Nassr coach Rui Vitoria that the pressure is all on him.

In the first game since March when the season was suspended due to coronavirus, Al Nassr in second, six points behind the leaders with eight games to play, can’t afford any slip-ups in the Riyadh Derby if they are to successfully defend the title they won last season.

“We are six points ahead and the opponent is under more pressure as they know they have to reduce the difference,” Lucescu told reporters at the pre-match press conference to the eagerly-awaited Riyadh Derby that will take place with no fans in the King Fahd International Stadium.

That points gap means that the smart money is still on Al Hilal to take league title number 16. Victory in this Riyadh Derby will take the three-time Asian champions nine points clear of Al Nassr with just seven games remaining.

Not only that but Al Hilal have looked to be in better shape than their challengers in recent warm-up games with a 2-2 draw with second tier side Al-Shoalah following a 4-0 win over Al Riyadh.

“We have been looking forward to this game for a long time,”  Lucescu, who took Al Hilal to the AFC Champions League title in 2019, added. “The league suspension has been long and it has not been easy but we have focused on the mental side of things and aim to return strongly.”

The Romanian has been boosted by the return to fitness of Brazilian star Carlos Eduardo who has recovered from last week’s knock. With the league’s leading goalscorer Bafetimbi Gomis signing a contract extension in July, Lucescu is in a positive frame of mind.

“We know the way they play and we know that it will be a tough game …but everyone is affected by the long pause and we all start at the same level. We are just going to take it step by step and stay focused.”

There has been good and bad news for Al Nassr as Brazilian centre-back Maicon Pereira has arrived in Riyadh from Galatasaray and has been cleared to play. The former Porto star will be needed as fellow defenders Omar Hawsawi and Abdullah Madu could miss out through injury.

While Hilal may have the points gap, in terms of the personal battles between the two coaches, Vitoria has the upper hand. The Portuguese boss has yet to lose in three meetings with his Romanian rival in big games in Europe as well as Saudi Arabia.

In a final play-off to reach the group stage of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League, Vitoria led Benfica to a 5-2 aggregate victory over PAOK, coached by Lucescu. After a 1-1 draw in Lisbon, the Portuguese powerhouse won 4-1 in Greece.

Earlier this season, Al Nassr inflicted Al Hilal’s only loss in the league this season so far with a 2-1 win at Hilal’s King Saud International Stadium in October with Moroccan forward Abderrazak Hamdallah getting both goals.

A similar result at Al Nassr’s home on Wednesday would breathe new life into the title race. Vitoria has stressed that recent friendly games were a chance to try out tactics and give players a run-out. Losses against Al Raed and Al Fateh however have given the Portuguese boss much to think about.

At the other end of the table.  Al Ittihad are just three places of the bottom of this 16-team league and in danger of the drop. The two-time AFC Champions League winners face a game on Tuesday at mid-table Abha where victory would provide the Jeddah giants with some much-needed breathing space.

The race for third and a place in the 2021 AFC Champions League is also a fierce one. Al Wehda are currently in the driving seat and host Al Shabab while Al Ahli in fourth and just two points behind host the struggling Al Hazem. Al Faisaly, Al-Taawon and Al Raed also have an outside chance of booking a place in next year’s continental competition.

All eyes will, however, be on the top of the table clash as Hilal can take a huge step towards the title. “I am happy with how the players have returned from the suspension and I am confident in  their abilities,”said Lucescu. “All we care about is winning the next match and that will help us win the league.”