RIYADH: The Riyadh Baja, the second round of the 2020 Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, will take place on April 8-11, the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) has confirmed.
The series was launched successfully in 2019 and continues to attract the cream of the region’s off-road racers, with interest in the sport burgeoning since the Kingdom hosted the Dakar Rally for the first time in January.
The city of Hail hosted the opening round at the start of February, which was won by Saleh Alabdelali in a Hummer. The rookie driver currently leads the series after winning that round.
The three-day Riyadh Baja took place for the first time at the end of November last year, but has switched to the earlier April date in 2020.
It will be based at the Green Halls stadium complex in Riyadh, and will run under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and the supervision of Lebanese consultant Ziad Jamous.
The terrain available to rally officials is extensive, and the inaugural event which was won by Yazeed Al-Rajhi — after a close fight with French legend Stephane Peterhansel — used desert terrain in Saad National Park. Diriyah hosted the ceremonial finish.
Yousef Al-Dhaif came out on top in the UTV category last year, with Emirati Mohammed Al-Balooshi winning the motorcycles and Sufyan Al-Omar topping the times in the quads.
After the opening round of this year’s series in Hail, Al-Balooshi leads the Saudi series on two wheels, with Riyadh Al-Oraifan on top in the quads and Saleh Alabdelali taking that surprise early lead in the cars.
The calendar for the season has now been confirmed, with the Aseer Baja taking place on June 18-20 and three further rounds — Al-Qassim, Sharqiya and the Tabuk Cross-Country Rally — rounding off the series in the autumn.
Officials at the SAMF are finalizing details and regulations for the event, which will run with the support of the new Sports Ministry, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), MBC Group, Al-Arabia outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group. The new Sports Minister is Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal.