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.


Amaala lift champion trophy in Saudi Arabia’s first-ever desert polo tournament

Updated 19 January 2020

Amaala lift champion trophy in Saudi Arabia’s first-ever desert polo tournament

  • Amaala earned the bragging rights as the 2020, and inaugural, AlUla Desert Polo champions

JEDDAH: Renowned Argentine polo player Nacho Figueras scored all his side’s goals as Amaala hammered out an emphatic 7-3 victory over host team AlUla to win the Kingdom’s first-ever desert polo tournament on Saturday at AlUla UNESCO heritage site.

Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki bin Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority, presented the trophy to Amaala after the final.

The event forms part of Winter at Tantora festival, featuring international polo players, who had the experience of playing on compacted desert sand instead of grass amid the stunning surroundings at AlUla.

The Royal Commission of AlUla organized the three-day tournament in cooperation with the newly formed Saudi Polo Federation.

In winning the tournament, Amaala earned the bragging rights as the 2020, and inaugural, AlUla Desert Polo champions.

Players from all over the world took part, including team members from the world famous La Dolfina polo outfit from Argentina, including Adolfo Cambiaso, Pelon Stirling and Pablo Mac Donough.

In the match for third place, Al Nahla Bentley defeated Team Richard Mille 4-2 with Sheikha Alya Maktoum scoring a hat trick of goals.

Figueras said: “It’s an amazing place with an amazing history, an amazing heritage and an amazing first tournament for the Saudi Polo Federation. I’m very honored to be here and I’m delighted that we were able to win.

“This country is going through a transformation and there are amazing years to come.”

Mac Donough added: “For us it was a completely new place; polo-wise Saudi Arabia wasn’t something we were doing before. Having the chance to come to such an amazing country and having the chance to play a tournament and promote the sport, all this makes us feel very proud and we hope we can continue it.”

Saudi Polo Federation chairman, Amr F. Zedan, who played for Team Richard Mille during the tournament, said: “I see this event as a launching pad for the future. We have big plans for polo in Saudi Arabia that include the establishment of development programs and the construction of facilities to assist in building a polo infrastructure in The Kingdom.”

Amr Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission of AlUla, said: “Our tourism strategy for AlUla has been built around certain anchors — heritage, culture, nature and arts. Equestrianism has always been a key industry for us, and the surroundings here make AlUla one of the best locations to ride horses.”