Dream come true for Saudi Arabia’s youngest rally driver to take part in Dakar Rally

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Talal Al-Bader, Saudi Arabia’s youngest rally driver to participate in Dakar (L) with Emirati navigator Ali Mirza. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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The vehicle Al-Bader will traverse the Kingdom in for 12 days. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 04 January 2020

Dream come true for Saudi Arabia’s youngest rally driver to take part in Dakar Rally

  • Talal Al-Bader: ‘Participating in a rally that has this much legacy and heritage is very exciting’
  • Staying true to its founding principles, Dakar allows amateurs to rub shoulders and battle it out with professionals

JEDDAH: Drivers are ready and set to hit the dunes of one of the world’s newest and unexplored territories in the land of rally racing, as experienced drivers and rookies have come to test their skills, endurance and perseverance. 
Talal Al-Bader, Saudi Arabia’s youngest rally driver to participate in Dakar, is set for an exciting journey that will test the young man’s focus, skill and will. 
After allowing Arab News to check out TB Motorsports’ gear and trucks that were parked at the Parc Ferme, you can sense his excitement at the mere mention of Dakar. 
“Participating in a rally that has this much legacy and heritage, with many years of experience, is sometimes overwhelming but very exciting as you get to meet the people behind the rally, competitors, make new friends, and it’s very exciting on all fronts,” he said. 




The vehicle Al-Bader will traverse the Kingdom in for 12 days. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

With 6,000 km of training across the Kingdom’s varied terrain — an advantage to the Saudi drivers as the deserts are literally their backyards — Al-Bader has his eye on finishing the race with the least number of mistakes, and gaining enough experience for years to come. 
“My passion for motorsports from a young age was a drive, but I wanted more as I grew,” he said. “The announcement of the Saudi Rally Championship and Dakar Rally 2020 coming to the Kingdom was what pushed me, and I saw it as a sign. I wanted to do this for so long professionally, and now I have an opportunity.”
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 in various rallies across the globe.
Al-Bader’s navigator, long-time rally driver and navigator Ali Mirza from the UAE, is accompanying the young rookie on the grueling 12-day journey across Saudi Arabia’s vast lands.

Mirza has had years of experience in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and will be providing Al-Bader with the proper guidance to achieve a win.
“We expect many surprises to come. I’ve done many rallies in the area. The first 35 percent of Dakar will be a bit rough,” said Mirza.
“There will be valleys and mountains where surprises could happen, unexpected circumstances not found in road books. We have to be careful and vigilant.”
The side-by-side vehicle is the custom-made Can-Am Maverick, built by the BBR Motorsports company in France.
The duo will be competing in the T-3 prototype class, which gives competitors more flexibility in tuning the vehicles.

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READ MORE: Arab News' dedicated Dakar Rally 2020 Saudi Arabia Spotlight

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“The car we have for the local rallies is heavy duty and much stronger. For Dakar, we had to adjust the car slightly and we need to be more cautious,” said Al-Bader.
“The chassis and frame itself are built by BBR’s founder and team manager Loic Bonnevie. It uses a stock Can-Am X3 engine and transmission, otherwise everything is built to spec by team BBR,” Al-Bader added.
“It’s equipped with the latest Donerre suspension, a French company specializing in heavy duty Rally Suspension, and of course the Raptor body to cover it all up.”
Mirza said the Empty Quarter, the last stages of Dakar, will be the toughest as many might encounter unexpected situations, such as large sand dunes. Even the type of sand can make a difference. 
But the duo believe that with their combined effort and experience, Dakar is a stepping stone to what is yet to come. 
“Talal and I work in a way that’s best suited for us,” said Mirza. “We started off as friends-turned-partners in this field. This is family, and we’re in this together to reach the last stage.”

 


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.”