New route, more technically challenging Dakar Rally promised in Saudi Arabia next year

The Dakar Rally will be returning to Saudi Arabia for a second year running, it was announced through a virtual press conference on Wednesday. (SPA/File Photo)
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Updated 12 June 2020

New route, more technically challenging Dakar Rally promised in Saudi Arabia next year

  • The organizers of the 2021 Dakar-Saudi race have promised a route that is entirely new

DUBAI: The Dakar Rally will be returning to Saudi Arabia for a second year running, it was announced through a virtual press conference on Wednesday. 

The organizers of the 2021 Dakar-Saudi race have promised a route that is entirely new, more technical and, among the dunes that will surround it from start to finish, will include stages that will test the driver’s speed and endurance.

“It is with tremendous pride that we welcome the Dakar Rally back to the kingdom in 2021,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud, Minister of Sports. “It will once again be our honor to extend our renowned hospitality two all competitors, crew, fans and media taking part, as well as our now close friends and partners at the Amaury Sports Organisation.”

Last year, the Dakar Rally took place in Saudi Arabia for the first time, and indeed it was a landmark event for motor-racing in the continent.

“Hosting Dakar rally across our breathtaking natural landscape broke new ground for both Saudi Arabia as a nation and Dakar too, with it being the first time in the rally’s history to have the engines roar in Asia,” Prince Abdul Aziz said. “We always believed we had the key components needed too deliver Dakar, and we are thrilled with how amazing the rally was.

“Now as we look forward to achieving the grand ambition of the Vision 2030, making tomorrow even more beautiful is what drives us individually and as a nation,” he added. “Dakar Saudi is visionary project that comes with great challenges and opportunities. For us, the values of Dakar and the wider goals and ambitions of the Amaury Sports Organisation make them a natural partner, for both the Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Arabian Motorsports Federation, and we are delighted to be working with them again.”

Prince Abdul Aziz was keen to reiterate the importance of having such an event take place in the Kingdom.

“Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 was the greatest race our part of the world has ever seen,” he said. “It is aligned in every with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, to redefine human ambition and adventure. We welcome the world and invite them to embark with us on an adventure like never before. To Saudi Arabia and the Ministry of Sport, such a challenge, like everything, will never be considered impossible. Welcome to Saudi Arabia.”

David Castera, the director of the Dakar Rally opened the conference to the backdrop of the Pyrenees mountains, where he has been finalising every aspect of the 2021 race.

“I’ve been working in it ever with my team through video conferences of course,” he said. “Like most of you, we had to adapt and work differently. Dakar is being well prepared, very well prepared. We’re on time, the course is done. Many things have advanced, and the Saudis working along us, and we’ll be ready for the month of January.”

Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Faisal, Chairman of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation expressed his pride to be hosting the race in Saudi Arabia again.

“Dakar 2020 was huge success for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Dakar,” he said. “Dakar 2020 witnessed an increase in participants from all around the world. It was a tough race, it was a thrilling 13 days. I saw personally the excitement and the satisfaction on the faces of all the drivers and the teams, and this was a big relief to us in Saudi Arabia.”

He also had a message for the drivers who will take part in 2021.

“It’s new race, it’s a new route…we’re going to take you to new parts of Saudi Arabia for you to discover, and to prove you are up to the challenge and you can compete at a very high and international level.”

Prince Khalid also highlighted the support of the government of Saudi Arabia in making Dakar 2020 such a success. 

That was the core of our achievement of 2020, and we are really looking forward to welcome you all again in Saudi Arabia and to witness a new challenge  and hopefully, inshallah, you will enjoy Dakar 2021as you enjoyed it (last year) and I promise you it will be more thrilling and exciting for you.”


Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

Updated 12 August 2020

Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

  • Inter reach their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League

MILAN: A record-breaking Romelu Lukaku is leading Inter Milan's chase for their first trophy in 9 years.

Eyebrows were raised last year when Inter shelled out a club record of around €65 million ($73 million) plus €13 million  ($15 million) in bonuses for Lukaku, who had had a disappointing final season at Manchester United.

However, Lukaku swiftly developed a scintillating partnership with Lautaro Martínez and their goals helped Inter sustain a title challenge before eventually finishing second in Serie A, a point behind Juventus.

Inter scored 81 league goals — well above the paltry 57 they managed in the previous campaign.

Lukaku scored again on Monday and set up another to help Inter beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 to reach the Europa League semifinals.

“Romelu has never played so well, not even in the past,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said.

The Belgian forward became the first player to find the net in nine consecutive Europa League games, surpassing the eight set by Alan Shearer for Newcastle in 2005.

Lukaku’s 31st goal of the season took him past the 30-mark for the first time in his career.

“I’ve always wanted to win, ever since I was little,” Lukaku said. “I’ve always said that I will give my all for this team.

“We’re a great team; my teammates help me a lot, otherwise I couldn’t do these things and achieve these numbers ... my teammates look for me. We’re doing well together, all of us.”

Inter reached their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League as well as Serie A and the Italian Cup to complete a historic treble.

They retained the Italian Cup the following year but have not managed to lift silverware since.

The Nerazzurri play Shakhtar Donetsk or Basel in the semifinals on Monday.

After an intense period of playing matches approximately every three days after soccer restarted following the pandemic-enforced shutdown, Conte has almost a week to prepare his players.

He will want to make sure they understand that profligacy can prove costly at this level.

Inter have often failed to kill off games in which they have  dominated, and that was again the case on Monday when they had opportunities to extend their advantage.

That allowed Leverkusen to stay in the quarterfinal despite having only two shots on target.

“We could have gone through in a more relaxed manner because, despite the fact that we never really had to dig in, the result was close,” Conte said.

“It’s difficult to be annoyed. I can only compliment the lads on their performance. As is the case after every game, we’ll analyze every situation and see where we can improve.”