‘Dakar is in our backyard,’ says two-time Saudi rally participant

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Saudi Arabian rally driver Yasir bin Saidan (No. 324) is taking part in his third Dakar Rally. (Supplied)
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The 43-year-old cross country world champion in the T2 and T3 classes is participating for the third time in the new 2020 Mini Cooper CountryMan for the X-Raid team. (Supplied)
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Updated 04 January 2020

‘Dakar is in our backyard,’ says two-time Saudi rally participant

  • Bin Saidan believes that the most difficult part of the rally will be the first week
  • Dakar Rally is the toughest and most dangerous rally race in the world

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabian rally driver Yasir bin Saidan (No. 324) is back to hit the dunes in the T1 class in the 42nd edition of the Dakar Rally this weekend.

The 43-year-old cross country world champion in the T2 and T3 classes is participating for the third time in the new 2020 Mini Cooper CountryMan for the X-Raid team and is “more than ready” for what lies ahead.

“I’ve participated in many rallies around the world — Kazakhstan, Morocco, the Emirates, Europe as well as touring around Saudi for years. The great thing about Dakar this year is that it’s going to be 65 percent sand and dunes, something which we (Saudis) know more about and excel at,” he told Arab News.

“We’re used to the terrain and it’s part of our nature as drivers. I’ve been hitting the dunes since I was 8-years-old on a quad, we have the skills and the knowledge of the terrain.”

He first participated in the rally in 2014, in the T3 with an RZR 900 Polaris, but dropped out at the fifth stage. He returned to participate in the T2 class in 2016 with a different vehicle, winning third place.

When the ambitious driver found out that Dakar was coming to Saudi Arabia for the first time, he told Arab News how the prospect seemed surreal to him, and that it was the dream of any driver to participate, but there was an added advantage racing in your home country.

“We trained hard and prepared ourselves for this, any smart driver knows what to do, but personally, it’s like hitting two birds with one stone. Dakar in Saudi Arabia, this is home.”

His choice of vehicle for this race is a Sports Utility, and as Bin Saidan explains: “It thick build allows it to endure the difficult terrain.

“Strategy for Dakar is different to other rallies,” he explained. “It’s a grueling 12-day ride, requires a lot of patience and calm. I expect the MiniCooper to be very able in handling the terrain, but it all falls back to me as a driver and my strategy. My aim is to finish the rally in a top position.

“This is in our back yard, our home,” he added,  saying he felt that knowledge would give him an edge over competitors.

Bin Saidan believes that the most difficult part of the rally will be the first week, as drivers will face many mountain ranges and valley terrain.

The Dakar Rally is the toughest and most dangerous rally race in the world, and tests driving skills and endurance.

“Personally, rocks and mountain ranges are going to be difficult — the cars are more susceptible to damage than to sand,” he said. “My years of driving in the Empty Quarter and other areas gained me enough experience. All I need to do is focus, ensure that I drive safe and smart so the car won’t break down and, hopefully, all will be well after that.”


The NBA Finals: Why the Lakers will win the championship

Updated 37 min 6 sec ago

The NBA Finals: Why the Lakers will win the championship

LeBron James believed he could win every time he advanced to the NBA Finals.
A couple occasions, he realistically had little chance. His first and last appearances in Cleveland ended in sweeps, overmatched Cavaliers teams routed by San Antonio in 2007 and Golden State in 2018.
In his 10th NBA Finals, he sees his first opportunity with the Los Angeles Lakers the same way he viewed his trips in Cleveland and Miami.
“The game is won between the four lines, not won on paper,” James said. “At the end of the day, when I’ve lost in the finals, the better team won because they played well, they were more prepared and they did what they needed to do to win those four games.”
This time, that’s going to be his team.
With Anthony Davis alongside James, the Lakers are armed with the same type of firepower they had when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant led them to the first of three straight titles 20 years ago.
The two first-team selections to the All-NBA team have combined for 60 or more points 20 times in their first season together, and the Lakers have won 19.
They are now set up to win the Lakers’ first title in a decade.
“Now we want to make sure that we finish this thing off right,” Davis said.
James shows almost no drop-off at 35, tying his career high with four triple-doubles in these playoffs. He is averaging 26.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists, numbers no player has ever reached through his first 15 games of a postseason.
Davis has been just as dominant, right about at his career postseason average of 29.6 points that trails only Michael Jordan (33.4) and Allen Iverson (29.7) among players who have appeared in at least 25 games.
The Heat, with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler anchoring a strong defense, might be able to take one of them away. Nobody is stopping both.
The Lakers’ role players give them plenty of support, from playoff-tested veterans Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard and Danny Green, to newcomers such as Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso. Los Angeles is shooting 49.8% as a team, tops in the postseason.
The Lakers are also limiting teams to 106.5 points, third-lowest in the playoffs, and the Heat might be the least explosive squad they will have faced. Portland had Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Houston followed with NBA scoring leader James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and Denver boasted Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the top two players in total points in the playoffs.
Los Angeles knocked all three teams out in five games.
Once they did, thoughts turned to the proper way to cap off what’s been a challenging season for the Lakers. A preseason trip to China turned turbulent following Houston general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting democratic protesters in Hong Kong. Bryant, a franchise icon, was killed in a helicopter crash in January. The coronavirus pandemic halted the season and forced players to be away from their families for months when it resumed.
Four more wins and the Lakers can go home to them.
“Every day since we been in the bubble it’s been like, man, this is a great opportunity. Take full advantage of it and stay in the moment,” Howard said. “You know, even after we won the Western Conference finals, I wanted to be like, all right, this is not the goal just to win the Western Conference finals. The goal is the win the championship.”
They will. Lakers in five.
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Brian Mahoney is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at bmahoney(at)ap.org