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.”

 


‘Fight Island’ concept debuts in Abu Dhabi on Sunday

Updated 11 July 2020

‘Fight Island’ concept debuts in Abu Dhabi on Sunday

  • Plan to be unveiled on Sunday with the staging of the 13-fight UFC 251 event on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island

DUBAI: When mixed martial arts supremo Dana White first floated his “Fight Island” concept, with its echoes of the Bruce Lee blockbuster “Enter the Dragon” where fighters were drawn into combat at a private getaway, eyebrows were raised.

“‘Fight Island’ is real. It’s a real thing,” said the Ultimate Fighting Championship boss when he announced the plan in April. “The infrastructure’s being built right now, and that’s really going to happen.”

White’s vision will be unveiled on Sunday with the staging of the 13-fight UFC 251 event on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.

The event will be headlined by a welterweight world title encounter between the Nigerian-American champion Kamaru Usman and Cuban-American challenger Jorge Masvidal.

It’s one of four “Fight Island” cards to be staged without an audience inside an arena on the resort and entertainment island throughout July, kicking off with three world title bouts and a title challenge eliminator.

Usman said during a virtual media event that he had been impressed by what he’d seen since arriving in the UAE on Thursday.

“I’m grateful for everything that’s been done,” said Usman, gunning for the second defense of his title. “All the precautions have been taken. After I go out there on Saturday and get my hand raised I’ll be glad to be heading home COVID-free.”

The UFC has made the move to Abu Dhabi from its Las Vegas base in an effort to isolate its fighters during the coronavirus pandemic.

Safety has been a major motivator, as has the promoter’s need to keep staging events — and collecting revenue — during a crisis that has shut down or forced massive overhauls to the staging of the world’s major sporting events.

Strict lockdown measures have been imposed on athletes, their entourages, officials, staff and media for the duration of their stay on Yas Island, on a site that has been completely sealed off until the event concludes on July 26.

Tests were taken before people arrived — initial headliner Gilbert Burns of Brazil failed, and stayed home, Masvidal’s coach Mike Brown suffered the same fate — and after landing there has been more testing, and 48 hours in-room quarantine.

“We were able to lock away with some mats and pads in our room and keep training as much as we could,” said Russian welterweight Muslim Salikhov, who fights Brazil’s Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in Sunday’s preliminaries.

“The main thing everyone is saying is that we are here, and we are ready to fight because that’s what we do for a living.”

Abu Dhabi’s executive director of tourism and marketing, Ali Al-Shaiba, said protocols were stringent in the expansive “safe zone,” patrolled by police and expected to house around 2,000 people for the duration of the month-long event. Staff will be tested every 72 hours.