Dakar racers fine-tune vehicles in readiness for ‘exciting’ Saudi desert rally

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The area was buzzing with the sound of engines as mechanics and drivers made last-minute tweaks and test runs in readiness for scrutineering checks ahead of Sunday's start. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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The area was buzzing with the sound of engines as mechanics and drivers made last-minute tweaks and test runs in readiness for scrutineering checks ahead of Sunday's start. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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The area was buzzing with the sound of engines as mechanics and drivers made last-minute tweaks and test runs in readiness for scrutineering checks ahead of Sunday's start. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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The area was buzzing with the sound of engines as mechanics and drivers made last-minute tweaks and test runs in readiness for scrutineering checks ahead of Sunday's start. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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The area was buzzing with the sound of engines as mechanics and drivers made last-minute tweaks and test runs in readiness for scrutineering checks ahead of Sunday's start. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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The area was buzzing with the sound of engines as mechanics and drivers made last-minute tweaks and test runs in readiness for scrutineering checks ahead of Sunday's start. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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#64 racer, legendary Peruvian motorcyclist and ten time Dakar Rally participant, Carlo Vellutino. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 03 January 2020

Dakar racers fine-tune vehicles in readiness for ‘exciting’ Saudi desert rally

  • Preparations underway at Jeddah Corniche’s parc ferme
  • The area was buzzing with the sound of engines as mechanics

JEDDAH: Preparations for the famous Dakar Rally have got underway at Jeddah Corniche’s parc ferme with race teams fine-tuning vehicles for the start of the event on Sunday.

The area was buzzing with the sound of engines as mechanics and drivers made last-minute tweaks and test runs in readiness for scrutineering checks.

Legendary Peruvian motorcyclist and 10-time Dakar Rally participant, Carlo Vellutino (racer No. 64), spoke to Arab News at his X-Raids team tent about his excitement at once again taking part in the competition, being held in the Kingdom for the first time.




#64 racer, legendary Peruvian motorcyclist and ten time Dakar Rally participant, Carlo Vellutino. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

“I feel very happy to be here in Saudi Arabia, it’s a new challenge and I feel very proud to participate in a place that’s far from my country.

“I just want the first few days to get by. I’m not really intimidated by the terrain as Peru has a lot of sand and sand dunes, which makes it comfortable,” he said.

“From a riding preference, I dislike the rocky terrain but what excites me most and grabs my attention is being in a new country, in a new territory, a new culture and having the chance to participate in the Dakar Rally excites me most.”

Chilean motorcyclist and rookie driver, Alejandro Aros (No. 122), was also looking forward to the rally experience. The 47-year-old, who began his motorcycling career late in life, told Arab News: “It’s exciting to be here (in Saudi Arabia).




#122, motorcyclist and rookie driver Alejandro Aros from Chile. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

“I think that the Dakar Rally is returning to its origins, to explore the unexplored areas, a vast and open area. I believe it’ll be like the original African spirit as it was when held in Africa.

“I began racing at 41 years old and I’ve participated in a lot of rallies in Chile and Peru and also in two world championships. These experiences have helped me embrace Dakar Rally,” said Aros.

Drivers could also be seen test-driving their vehicles in the streets of Jeddah as the countdown to the big race began.

After 10 years in South America, the desert race will be staged in the Kingdom from Jan. 5 to 17, setting off from Jeddah and passing through locations such as NEOM, Riyadh and Qiddiya.

French quad racer Axel Dutrie (No. 259) from the Drag’On rally team was returning to Dakar for the fourth time after running into difficulties in the past two races. He told Arab News: “The terrain in the mountains and deserts are very different but it’s very exciting to be here.”

The 42-year-old began driving quads at the age of six and started his professional career when he was 14. The son of biker, Guy Dutrie, racing is in his blood.

“I don’t think there’s much difference in Saudi Dakar from other Dakar races. Though maybe last year was a bit different in Peru as it was mostly sand, but maybe Saudi is nicer when it comes to weather and terrain. However, generally the tracks are similar,” he said.

The parc ferme area where the race vehicles are gathered is part of the Dakar Village visitor-entertainment hub. It includes a Dakar museum, a virtual reality station, stunt shows and activities for children.

For the next three days, the 6,000-square-meter site will also provide the base for the passing and presentation of all Dakar competitors and their cars, bikes, trucks, quads and side-by-side vehicles.


Straight drive: Afridi says ‘no chance’ of India-Pakistan cricket while Modi leads

Updated 27 September 2020

Straight drive: Afridi says ‘no chance’ of India-Pakistan cricket while Modi leads

  • Former skipper tells Arab News Pakistan players ‘missing out’ over IPL ban

KARACHI: Pakistani all-rounder and former skipper Shahid Khan Afridi says there is “no chance” of cricketing ties being revived with India as long as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in power. 
Strained relations between the two nations and a decades-long dispute over the Himalayan valley of Kashmir have laid the foundations for one of the most intense sporting rivalries in the world. 
Ties have been especially strained in the past year after Modi’s government stripped Kashmir’s autonomy, which both nations rule in part but claim in full.
Pakistan and India have not played a bilateral Test series since 2008 when already brittle ties were shattered by the Mumbai terror attacks.
“The government of Pakistan is always ready, but with the present regime (in India) there are no such chances of resuming cricket relations, or of a Pakistan-India series,” Afridi told Arab News in a wide-ranging interview at his home in Karachi this week.
“With Modi in power, I don’t see it’s going to happen.”
Cricket is especially popular in both India and Pakistan, and emotions run high whenever the two sides play each other, usually in packed stadiums resounding with nationalist slogans.

Shahid Afridi during an exclusive interview with Arab News on Wednesday in Karachi, Pakistan. (AN Photo)

In the past New Delhi and Islamabad used cricket matches to try to make progress on issues that have dogged relations, especially the fate of the Kashmir region.
In 1987, then-Pakistan President Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq visited India to watch a cricket match, but the event was also used to defuse a crisis over troop build-ups on one of the world’s most militarised borders, and the Pakistani leader met Indian prime minister of the day, Rajiv Gandhi.
In 2005, Pakistan’s then-military ruler Pervez Musharraf visited India for a cricket match, but the trip also became a summit with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and the two leaders agreed to open up the Kashmir border.
Afridi agreed that sports could play an important role in improving relations between the two countries, especially since cricket was like a “religion” for the people of India and Pakistan. “So, I think that sports are a thing which can help improve ties,” he said.
Commenting on the 2020 Indian Premier League, which was initially scheduled to begin in March in India, but is being held in the United Arab Emirates due to the coronavirus pandemic, Afridi said Pakistani players were missing a “big opportunity” by not being part of the tournament. 
“I know that IPL is a big brand in the world of cricket and it is an excellent opportunity for Babar Azam or any other Pakistani players to go there, play under pressure and share dressing rooms,” the Pakistani cricketer said. “So, in my opinion, Pakistani players are missing a big opportunity.”
Asked if he stood by an earlier statement that he was more loved in India than in his homeland, Afridi said: “If their love is true, no one can take it away, no matter whose government it is.
“No doubt, the way I have enjoyed cricket in India, I have always appreciated the love and respect I receive from the people of India. And now when I speak on social media, I get many messages from India and reply to many people. I believe that my overall experience in India has been excellent.”
Speaking about the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Afridi said the Pakistan prime minister had been an exemplary cricketer who led the country to World Cup victory in 1992, but one should not expect him to change decades of problems in a few years. 

Shahid Afridi during an exclusive interview with Arab News on Wednesday in Karachi, Pakistan. (AN Photo)

“It’s time to fulfil the promises he made before the elections,” Afridi said. “This is a great opportunity; the army is with you, judiciary is there. All are on one page.”
Khan has a favorable “ground and pitch” to achieve success, Afridi said, adding that the PM needed a stronger team to help him win. 
“Imran Khan will have to play with a strong team; he will have to take honest and clean people along with him,” he said. “The people who we see around Imran should work for this country, so the time doesn’t arrive when Imran is all alone.”
Speaking about punishing culprits in the recent case of a woman who was attacked and raped on a major highway in front of her children, Afridi said: “Don’t hang them publicly. But do hang them and set an example — and do it immediately.”
The 40-year-old cricketer is also known for his philanthropic work across Pakistan, and has formerly worked with UNICEF and several national organizations.
He said his parents were his “inspiration” for starting charity work and setting up the Shahid Afridi Foundation, which provides education, health care, access to water and sports rehabilitation in Pakistan’s underprivileged communities. 
Afridi has established hospitals in his hometown of Tirah in Khyber district as well as Kohat. His foundation has distributed rations to 40,000 families across Pakistan and offers free education to deserving students in 14 schools across the country. It also gives scholarships to 10 students from the tribal areas each year. 
Afridi has launched 200 water projects in the tribal districts and the arid Tharparkar region in Sindh, and also helped repatriate over 250 Pakistanis who were stranded in the Middle East due to the coronavirus pandemic. 
“We will have to educate these children,” he said, referring to Pakistan’s tribal areas. “I hope cricket academies will reach these areas.”

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