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.


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


“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.”


Man United, Inter favorites for Europa League finale

Updated 10 August 2020

Man United, Inter favorites for Europa League finale

  • All games from the quarterfinals onwards will be played as one-off ties across four venues

PARIS: Manchester United, Inter Milan and Sevilla headline a quintet of former champions traveling to Germany for a remodeled eight-team straight knockout tournament that will crown the winner of a Europa League campaign heavily disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

All games from the quarterfinals onwards in this season’s competition will be played behind closed doors as one-off ties across four venues — Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen — following a five-month interruption.

While a Champions League berth still awaits the victor of the final in Cologne on Aug. 21, much has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak that brought European football to a standstill in March.

“There are rules and regulations on the bubble that’s going to travel. We’ve got to stick together, stay together in and around the hotel and the training ground,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said of the strict health protocols clubs must respect.

Players and staff will undergo virus testing before departing for Germany and again on the eve of a match once arriving, a process repeated for each subsequent game in the final tournament.

UEFA has advised teams to travel on charter flights and minimize contact with the general public, strongly recommending the use of exclusive hotels — to which players will largely be confined — in order to avoid potential cross-contamination.

Masks will not be required for substitutes and coaching staff but they must maintain social distancing when seated, with players instructed to limit contact as much as possible when warming up. Match balls will be disinfected before kickoff and at half-time.

United, the 2017 winners, face FC Copenhagen in Monday’s quarterfinal in Cologne while Serie A runners-up Inter take on Bayer Leverkusen in a clash of former UEFA Cup champions at Dusseldorf Arena.

England forward Jesse Lingard, who played in United’s 2-0 win over Ajax in the final three years ago, is confident the team can capture the title for a second time.

“We can’t wait to get there and play this game now. 100 per cent I want to win it again,” Lingard told MUTV.

“Lifting a trophy is a special feeling you can’t really explain and winning it before you take that confidence forward. We have got a mixture of youth and experience in the squad and for the young lads to win their first trophy, it will be perfect for them.”

Should United advance to the last four they would face either Sevilla — who have won the Europa League and its precursor, the UEFA Cup, a record five times — or Premier League rivals Wolves in Cologne
on Aug. 16.

Wolves are through to a first European quarterfinal since 1972 but were punished by UEFA in midweek after failing to comply with Financial Fair Play requirements. They take on Sevilla in Duisburg on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Inter beat Getafe 2-0 in a single-leg last-16 tie Wednesday in Gelsenkirchen, and Antonio Conte’s men harbor hopes of adding to the three UEFA Cups won in the 1990s.

“This is an important competition. It doesn’t matter where and under what conditions you’re playing, you should only be focused on the upcoming match,” midfielder Christian Eriksen told Inter TV.

“It’s certainly not as fun playing without fans, the atmosphere isn’t there. We’ll try to excite them while they’re watching on TV, and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to embrace our supporters again soon.”

Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk, winners of the 2009 edition, play Swiss outfit Basel in the other quarterfinal in Gelsenkirchen.

This year’s Europa League final was initially due to be played in the Polish city of Gdansk in late May before the health crisis forced a change of plans.

Gdansk will host next year’s final instead.