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.”


Adesanya inflicts first career defeat on Costa as UFC Fight Island returns to Abu Dhabi 

Updated 27 September 2020

Adesanya inflicts first career defeat on Costa as UFC Fight Island returns to Abu Dhabi 

  • UFC 253 kicked off a five-event series on Yas Island that includes three Fight Nights and concludes with UFC 254

DUBAI: Fight Island 2 kicked off in Abu Dhabi in the early hours of Sunday with undefeated New Zealander Israel Adesanya inflicting a first career loss on Paulo Costa of Brazil to claim the middleweight belt in the headlining clash of UFC 253.

The five event series — UFC 253, three Fight Nights and UFC 254 — comes just two months after Fight Island originally took place on Yas Island between July 12 and 26, included UFC 251 and three Fight Nights, and was the first international sporting event to take place following the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Fight Island 2 will conclude with UFC 254’s highly anticipated meeting between unbeaten lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje on October 24. 

In the build-up to the main event, Adesanya and Costa had been embroiled in a war of words that had led to, albeit in a benign manner, a shouting match at the W Hotel on Yas Island, where the fighters are staying, and then to a far more bitter confrontation following their weigh-in at Yas Forum. And it was Adesanya who would come out victorious in the octagon via a TKO after 3.59 of round 2. 

“I know this game, I don’t just play this on EA Sports, I play this for real, so when I do this, I know what I’m talking about,” the winner said. “I still have to watch it again, little bit sloppy, but I’m a dog and I do what I do.”

“I still don’t like him. I don’t know him personally, I don’t wish he dies or anything, he’s alive, I let him be alive,” Adesanya said of the opponent who had just suffered his first career defeat. “This is the game we play, this is violence and I told you guys that it was going to be violent . . . and it’s going to end fast and that’s what I did. I’m fresh, I can go next weekend, I can go anytime. I want to spend time with my family because it’s been a crazy year, so I want to go spend time with my people.”

Before leaving, Adesanya, whose career record stands at 20 wins, set his sights on his next target.

“(Jared) Cannonier, I want Cannonier next.”

In the co-main event, Jan Blachowicz of Poland stopped the American Dominik Reyes in the second round of their Light Heavyweight title clash, and could barely hide his delight afterwards.

“I still don’t believe it, but it’s here. It’s not a dream, right? It happened,” he said. “I have the legendary Polish power, I proved it one more time, amazing.”
 Blachowicz, now with a record of 27-8-0, said that he never stopped believing in himself despite those untimely defeats on his journey to the top of the division.

“Here I am, the champion,” he said. “Like I said before, even a pandemic can’t stop me right now. I feel really great in the fight. I saw that my left kick to his body, that he slowed down a little bit. I saw almost everything he did. In the second round when I broke his nose, I knew that the finish will be soon. This is something that we prepared in our gym with coaches. On paper, we knew everything, and now in real life also. We do a great job in the gym, I am the champion.”
 Prior to that, the American Brandon “Raw Dawg” Royval was able to stop Kai Kara-France, another unbeaten New Zealander, after only 48 seconds of the round 2 in their flyweight clash.

“I’m happy it worked out, that round had its ups and downs, which sucked a little bit, but we were pulling it off,” he said. “At the end of the first round, I know I got dropped twice, but I thought I won it. I thought, I’m winning this round for sure.”

In a women’s Bantamweight bout, Ketlen Vieira of Brazil beat Sijara Eubanks of the US via a unanimous decision. 

“The fight was a lot harder than I thought,” she said. “I didn’t train for Sijara, obviously my opponent got changed a couple of weeks before. It was a very tough fight, she doesn’t get rocked by anything. It’s really important for me, it proves that I am here for a reason, I didn’t just fall in here. I’m ready to fight anyone. I prove that I can do it and that I have a lot to evolve and I can fight the best in the world.”

The top card had kicked off with Canadian Featherweight Hakeem Dawodu, who is of Jamaican origin, overcoming Zubaira Tukhugov of Russia via a split decision.

“I’m my own worst critic, I wanted a finish, I promised a finish,” he said. “I finished his teammate years ago with a body shot, I really wanted to put him away with a body shot. I think he was smart, I think I threw something that made him feel funny and that’s why he started running. Me and my coach, we are going to go back to the dressing room and we’re going to work on catching these guys. I’m going to summon my inner Jamaican, my Usain Bolt, and I’m going to run these guys down and prevent them from running from me.”

Dawodu said he was “not thrilled” with the fight and that he will be working on how to finish off fighters who refuse to engage with him.
“I just need to stop these guys from running from me,” he said. “So maybe I gotta sit back and work on my counter striking because they just run and it’s frustrating because I’m a KO fighter if you look at my record, I just haven’t been able to catch as many people as I have lately, but I put the full blame on myself, I’m going to go back to my gym and I’m going to work on catching these guys and prevent them from running.”

In the prelims, Welterweight Jake Matthews beat UFC legend Diego Sanchez with a unanimous decision in an emotional meeting.

“That last bit of ground and pound, I was this close to apologizing to him,” Matthews said. “I’ve watched him since I was 11 years old. Between him and BJ Penn, they’re two of my all-time favorites. I didn’t let it get to my head before the fight, but now it’s going to sink in and it’s crazy being able to beat a guy like that.”

Also in the earlier action, Brad Riddell beat Alex da Silva via another unanimous decision in their lightweight bout; Ludovit Klein knocked out Shane Young in the first round; William Knight scored a unanimous victory over Aleksa Camur in their heavyweight clash; Juan Espino defeated Jeff Hughes via submission at 3:48 of round 1 of another heavyweight bout; and heavyweight Danilo Ibragimov had kicked off the night  by beating Khadis Ibragimov via a unanimous decision.

Fight Island 2 will now move onto three UFC Fight Nights, on Oct. 4, 11 and 18 before wrapping with UFC 254 on Oct. 24.