Saudi desert rally champ gearing up for ‘indescribable’ Dakar race experience

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Saudi desert rally champion Ibrahim Al-Muhanna said the thrill of taking part in the 2020 Dakar Rally, being staged in the Kingdom for the first time, was “indescribable.” (Supplied)
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Saudi desert rally champion Ibrahim Al-Muhanna said the thrill of taking part in the 2020 Dakar Rally, being staged in the Kingdom for the first time, was “indescribable.” (Supplied)
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Saudi desert rally champion Ibrahim Al-Muhanna said the thrill of taking part in the 2020 Dakar Rally, being staged in the Kingdom for the first time, was “indescribable.” (Supplied)
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Saudi desert rally champion Ibrahim Al-Muhanna said the thrill of taking part in the 2020 Dakar Rally, being staged in the Kingdom for the first time, was “indescribable.” (Supplied)
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Updated 31 December 2019

Saudi desert rally champ gearing up for ‘indescribable’ Dakar race experience

  • The 42nd edition of grueling desert race runs from Jan. 5 to 17
  • Competitors start in Jeddah and pass through locations such as NEOM, the Red Sea Project, Riyadh and Qiddiya

RIYADH: Saudi desert rally champion Ibrahim Al-Muhanna said the thrill of taking part in the 2020 Dakar Rally, being staged in the Kingdom for the first time, was “indescribable.”

The 42nd edition of the grueling desert race, running from Jan. 5 to 17, will see participants start in Jeddah and pass through locations such as NEOM, the Red Sea Project, Riyadh and Qiddiya.

The 53-year-old driver said: “The feeling of being able to participate as a Saudi in Dakar Rally is indescribable. I have participated in many rallies before, but this is the top rally in the world.”

Al-Muhanna is looking forward to the challenge, alongside co-driver Osama Al-Sanad and mechanic Raed Abo Theeb, in a Mercedes Unimog 500. “It’s a true test of one’s commitment to the sport and their adventurous spirit, their patience and durability.

“It tests not only the driver, but their whole team. Maintenance, support, everyone goes through the ring of fire and comes out on the other side stronger, and a better team,” he added.

However, it will not be Al-Muhanna’s first Saudi rally. “I have participated in other rallies in Saudi Arabia, such as the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally, where I won the championship in the T4 truck category.

“The number of rallies I have participated in will be 139 after Dakar. I would have liked Dakar to be a unique number at 140 but I couldn’t find another rally to participate in before it. But we are aiming for Hail Rally to be number 140.”

Considering that Al-Muhanna only started training to become a rally driver in 2007, and participated in his first world championship in 2008, it is an impressive feat.

He described the Kingdom as the perfect location for the famous event, which would be a big motivator for Saudis too. “I think this is a great opportunity for Saudis who want to participate in a rally, and I think that the geography of Saudi Arabia really sets the scene for a great rally. The variety of locations and backdrops will make for a very exciting atmosphere.”

Al-Muhanna pointed out that he could not have achieved his success without considerable support. “I want to thank the General Sports Authority, and in particular Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal (the authority’s chairman). I also want to thank my sponsors Zeej Print, Nana Direct, and Taqarub, and of course the Security Forces Officers Club,” he said.

On his preparations for the Dakar event, he added: “We have worked hard to ensure that our truck is up to the safety standards required by Dakar Rally. Our truck has been tested and passed every inspection, so it’s definitely ready to take on Dakar.”


English Premier League to restart on June 17

Updated 28 May 2020

English Premier League to restart on June 17

  • No matches have been played since Leicester’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa on March 9

LONDON: The Premier League season is set to restart on June 17, three months after it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, British media reported on Thursday.

No matches have been played since Leicester's 4-0 win over Aston Villa on March 9, with Liverpool just two wins away from securing the title.

Top-flight clubs voted unanimously on Wednesday to return to contact training and were meeting again on Thursday to discuss issues such as the restart date and the rebate to broadcasters.

Matches would have to be played behind closed doors, much like they have been in Germany's Bundesliga since it restarted earlier in May.

The BBC reported that the first two matches would be Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal. Those matches are the two games in hand.

A full fixture list would then be played on the weekend of June 19-21.

So far, 12 people have tested positive for coronavirus after 2,752 tests across the Premier League.

La Liga in Spain hopes to return from June 11, while a crucial summit between Italian football officials and the country's sports minister will be held later on Thursday.

Liverpool were 25 points clear of 2019 champions Manchester City when the Premier league was shut down, on the verge of being crowned English champions for the first time in 30 years.

Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich City are in the relegation places.

The BBC will for the first time air free-of-charge Premier League soccer games live when the season restarts next month, the broadcaster said on Thursday.

"This opportunity creates an historic moment for the BBC and our audiences. At a time when sports fans across the country are in need of lift, this is very welcome news," Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, said.