Grassroot project aims to produce Saudi Arabia’s first female Dakar driver

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The project aims to introduce the first female Saudi races to Dakar. (Supplied)
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The project aims to introduce the first female Saudi races to Dakar. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 January 2020

Grassroot project aims to produce Saudi Arabia’s first female Dakar driver

  • Reem Al-Aboud, a young racing driver and one of the program members, drove the first stage of Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 from Jeddah to Al-Wajh
  • Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 takes place over 12 stages contested in 13 days

RIYADH: Dakar Rally organizers A.S.O. initiated a development project that aims to have female Saudi drivers take part in the 2021 edition of the challenging race.

A.S.O. worked with Saudi circuit racer Aseel Al-Hamad, who is also a board member of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) and a representative of the FIA Women in Motorsports Commission.

Al-Hamad proposed a grassroot approach to put young Saudi talents in the driving seat and prepare them for next year’s edition of the desert adventure.

Reem Al-Aboud, a young racing driver and one of the program members, drove the first stage of Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 from Jeddah to Al-Wajh. The 20-year-old is a club racer, whose passion for motorsport started with karting.

She also won the second place at Saudi Time Attack and was the first Saudi female to test the Formula-E car in Diriyah ABB Formula E in 2018.

Expressing her excitement to be part of the project, Al-Aboud said: “I never imagined how thrilling it would be. The experience is totally different from track racing. I now know that I would want to be a rally driver besides my passion for track racing. It will require a lot of training and dedication to gain proper experience, and I am up for it.”

Another female driver in the running to be the first female Saudi competitor at Dakar Rally is Dania Akeel. The 31-year-old biker got the first female Speed Bike Competition License issued by SAMF and competed in UAE National Sportsbike Super Series as well as the Bahrain BMR600 Championship.

Among the other names to feature in the program was 31-year-old dirt biker Mashael Al-Obaidan who recently obtained a sport driving license and will be competing in local rally championships while she looks forward to the headline race next year.

Following Al-Aboud’s drive from Jeddah to Al-Wajh in Stage 1, Al-Hamad drove the fifth stage from AlUla to Hail and the sixth stage from Hail to Riyadh, while Akeel was behind the wheel in Stage 7 from Riyadh to Wadi Al-Dawasir. Al-Obaidan, meanwhile, drove in Stage 8, which started from and ended in Wadi Al Dawasir.

“This is just the start. We are doing this to discover our local female talents, work with A.S.O. to train them with Patissier and prepare them to compete at Dakar Saudi Arabia 2021,” Al-Hamad said.

Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 takes place over 12 stages contested in 13 days and sees 342 pilots from 62 countries drive nearly 8,000km of uncharted Saudi desert.

 


Tiger Woods cautious about return ahead of Memorial

Updated 15 July 2020

Tiger Woods cautious about return ahead of Memorial

  • PGA Tour officials confirmed that the remainder of the 2019-2020 season would take place without fans

WASHINGTON: Tiger Woods admitted Tuesday that concern over the coronavirus delayed his return to the PGA Tour as he prepares to play his first event since February at this week's Memorial Tournament in Ohio.

The former world No. 1 has not played since appearing in the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles in February but will tee off at Muirfield on Thursday chasing a sixth victory in the Jack Nicklaus-hosted event.

The 44-year-old 15-time major winner said Tuesday he had contemplated returning to the tour earlier but had wanted to see how the first few events of the post-coronavirus shutdown fared before coming back.

"I just felt it was better to stay at home and be safe," Woods said Tuesday.

"I'm used to playing with lots of people around me or having lots of people have a direct line to me, and that puts not only myself in danger but my friends and family, and just been at home practicing and social distancing and being away from a lot of people.

"Coming back and playing the tour, in my case over the 20-some-odd years I've been out here, that's really hard to say, that I'm used to having so many people around me or even touch me, going from green to tee.

"That's something that I looked at and said, well, I'm really not quite comfortable with that, that whole idea."

Memorial organizers had initially planned to allow fans on the course at this week's tournament, but abandoned that idea as COVID-19 cases across the US began to skyrocket.

On Monday, PGA Tour officials confirmed that the remainder of the 2019-2020 season would take place without fans.

It means Woods will tee off on Thursday alongside world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka without the customary horde of spectators that usually follows him around a course.

"It's going to be different, there's no doubt about it," Woods said.

"For most of my career, pretty much almost every competitive playing round that I've been involved in, I've had people around me, spectators yelling, a lot of movement inside the gallery with camera crews and media."

Woods, who is making only his fourth tournament appearance of the season this week, said he has improved his health during the long layoff.

A stiff back hampered his performance at the Genesis in February, but Woods said he had not been troubled since.

"I feel so much better than I did then," Woods said.

"I've been able to train and concentrate on getting back up to speed and back up to tournament speed.

During Woods' layoff, the US was convulsed by nationwide protests against racism following the death of unarmed African-American man George Floyd during his arrest by police in Minneapolis on May 25.

Woods said he applauded efforts of Black Lives Matter activists to bring about change.

"I think change is fantastic as long as we make changes without hurting the innocent, and unfortunately that has happened. 

Hopefully it doesn't happen in the future, but a movement and change is fantastic," Woods said.

"That's how society develops. That's how we grow. That's how we move forward. That's how we have fairness."