Triple Dakar winners’ late duel in Hail Baja 1 opening desert stage

Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah snatched the stage win from Carlos Sainz. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 December 2020

Triple Dakar winners’ late duel in Hail Baja 1 opening desert stage

Triple Dakar winners’ late duel in Hail Baja 1 opening desert stage

HAIL: Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah took a 2min 50sec lead over Carlos Sainz after the opening 251.81 km Radifah selective section of Hail Baja 1, round four of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, on Friday.

The two triple Dakar winners were the quickest through the latter sections of the stage, with the Toyota Hilux driver snatching the stage win from his Mini Buggy rival.

Sainz’s teammate and Dakar legend Stephane Peterhansel rounded off the podium places after an early puncture, the Frenchman pushing local star Yazeed Al-Rajhi down to fourth place in the second of the Toyotas.

Overnight leader Al-Attiyah said: “It was a very good day for us and we started in a good position behind Carlos. We were fighting with Carlos. The last 40 km we were together and he touched us two times — we were together all the way. I am happy to win the stage.”

Sainz added: “The stage was good and it was coming fast. Nasser caught us and we followed him.”

Peterhansel said: “It was good, but at the beginning of the stage, after 10 km, we got a puncture. So we stopped three minutes for that. Afterwards I stayed with Nasser and Carlos, and we finished all together. We changed some settings on the car, so this is a good opportunity to do some tests as well.”

“We have two problems. We had low pressure in the tires and a sensor was flashing on the stage,” said Al-Rajhi. “We will see how it is tomorrow and try to push a little bit.”

Only 28 of the original 54 cars on the entry list were eligible to start the FIA event. Several, including Camelia Liparoti and 2020 Hail International Rally winner Saleh Al-Abdelali, were put into the National Rally that got underway with 44 competitors.

Technical issues meant that Czech driver Martin Prokop was unable to take the start in his Ford Raptor RS Cross-Country.

The day’s competitive section wound its way through the An Nafud desert, northwest of Hail, with the bikes able to refuel close to the passage control after
165.77 km.

Al-Attiyah, Seaidan and Sainz were the FIA event pacesetters through 66 km. Russian Vladimir Vasilyev overtook FIA Baja title rival Bernhard Ten Brinke early in the stage, while Poland’s Jakub Przygonski dropped 12 minutes to the leaders and fell further behind as the stage progressed. Al-Attiyah, Sainz and Al-Rajhi headed their rivals after 108 km and 165 km.

Overdrive Racing’s team manager, Jean-Marc Fortin, said a fuel issue caused delays for both Przygonski and Ten Brinke, with the former dropping 1hr 23min to the stage winner.

“Around 80 km, Kuba (Przygonski) got a problem with the car. We have a problem with the quality of fuel in the region. It is difficult to find a good setup of engine management. Then we resolved the problem.”

Al-Attiyah, Sainz, Peterhansel and Al-Rajhi reached the finish in the top four places, with Vasilyev taking fifth, Ten Brinke sixth after a late slow puncture, and Denis Krotov finishing eighth after reported broken suspension delays for local driver Yasir Seaidan cost him a good finish.

Ten Brinke said: “We were running a bit low on fuel toward the finish and could not push in the last 100 km. The speed was OK, but I was impressed with the speed of the first two. I think they took some risks. We were more like on the Dakar speed and they were on a sprint speed.”

Vasilyev added: “My speed was good, but after 50 km, I needed to open the road. It was not easy and it was an advantage for those following behind to catch me.”

Aron Domzala’s hopes of confirming the FIA T4 title on Hail Baja 1 suffered a setback when a transmission issue meant that he struggled at the start and was then forced to change two drive shafts after 60 km to enable him to continue in two-wheel drive. The decision was taken for the Pole to take a stage maximum penalty.

Dutchman Kees Koolen had been running as high as seventh overall after 108 km and the Can-Am driver reached the finish in 13th place and first in T4 from rivals Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Lorenco Rosa.

Saleh Al-Saif was locked in a fascinating tussle with his South Racing Can-Am rival Guillaume de Mevius for the early lead in the FIA T3 section. The Saudi steered his Can-Am to the fastest time and a stunning seventh in the overall standings to lead ninth-placed De Mevius by 3min 02sec.

Saudi drier Khalid Al-Jafla rounded off the top 10 in his Toyota, with Miroslav Zapletal (Ford) and Erik van Loon (Toyota) rounding off the dusty leading dozen. Saudi driver Al-Mashna Al-Shammeri (Nissan) was the unofficial winner of the stage in the national rally.

Nineteen bikes and 18 quads eventually made it to the start. Yamaha’s official factory rider Adrien van Beveren cruised into a comfortable lead in the motorcycle category on his WRF 450. He pulled away from the start and was 9min 08sec in front of Poland’s Konrad Dabrowski after 66 km and 19min 19sec in front at the refueling.

The Frenchman eventually carded an opening stage time of 2hr 48min 11sec to stretch his lead over the Pole to 25min 09sec. Third place fell to local rider Mishal Al-Ghuneim.

Van Beveren said: “It was a nice day for me. I am here for training. I am a professional rider and not comparing myself with the other riders. I try to navigate good and it was difficult. It is a Baja only in name. It is a real rally and a difficult one. The navigation was tricky. You could not relax. It was full of sand, twisty tracks and great training for me for Dakar.”

Yamahas topped the quad timings, with Riyadh Al-Shammeri taking a first stage lead from Abdulaziz Al-Shayban and multiple Hail International winner Absulmajeed Al-Khulaifi.

Hail Rally Toyota 2020 is taking place under the supervision of the Hail Regional Development Authority in co-operation with the General Authority for Tourism and National Heritage and the General Authority for Sport.


Baumgartner sends Austria into last 16 with win over Ukraine

Baumgartner sends Austria into last 16 with win over Ukraine
Updated 21 June 2021

Baumgartner sends Austria into last 16 with win over Ukraine

Baumgartner sends Austria into last 16 with win over Ukraine
  • Austria plays Italy at Wembley on June 26 after advancing at a major tournament for 1st time since 1982 World Cup
  • “We wanted to write history, we did it, those are the great moments of football," said coach Franco Foda

BUCHAREST: Christoph Baumgartner’s first-half goal sent Austria through to the last 16 of Euro 2020 on Monday after a 1-0 win over Ukraine that left their opponents facing an anxious wait to see if they qualify.
Hoffenheim midfielder Baumgartner turned in David Alaba’s corner on 21 minutes in Bucharest as Austria pipped Ukraine to second place in Group C behind the Netherlands, who eased past North Macedonia 3-0 in Amsterdam.
Austria will play Italy at Wembley on June 26 after advancing from the opening round at a major tournament for the first time since the 1982 World Cup.
“I can’t quite comprehend it all, my head is really hurting! This is really special for all of us,” Baumgartner told Austrian broadcaster ORF.
“The emotions right after the match were great. We wanted to write history, we did it, those are the great moments of football,” said coach Franco Foda.
Ukraine, eliminated in the group stage at the past two European Championships, must wait to find out if they advance as one of the four best third-placed teams.
“I have no idea yet what to expect or what will happen,” said Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko.
“We’ve have to wait until the last games. If we’ve the slightest chance we have to be ready.”
Shevchenko had ruled out his Ukraine team playing for the draw they needed to finish as runners-up, having snapped a run of six straight losses at the competition with their 2-1 win over North Macedonia.
Marko Arnautovic was recalled to the Austria line-up after the forward missed the 2-0 defeat by the Netherlands while serving a one-match ban for insulting a North Macedonia player in their opening game.
Needing victory to be assured of a place in the next round, Austria went ahead as Baumgartner beat 18-year-old defender Illia Zabarnyi to Alaba’s corner and poked beyond Georgiy Bushchan.
Ukraine came close to an equalizer when Mykola Shaparenko drew a good low save from Daniel Bachmann, the rebound just eluding a lunging Andriy Yarmolenko, who had scored in the first two group games.
Baumgartner’s evening ended prematurely due to injury and his replacement Alessandro Schopf soon set up Arnautovic, the former Stoke man dribbling wide moments after Konrad Laimer’s curling effort was punched away by Bushchan.
Austria nearly handed Ukraine a way back into the match when Stefan Lainer headed Viktor Tsygankov’s free-kick toward his own goal, but Bachmann reacted well to preserve the victory and a spot in the knockout phase.


Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown

Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown
Updated 21 June 2021

Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown

Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown
  • Manchester United defender Harry Maguire didn’t play in England's first two matches
  • "Obviously with the ankle injury, it's getting stronger, I'm getting more confident," said Maguire

LONDON: Harry Maguire says he is fit to feature for England in their decisive Euro 2020 Group D clash against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.
Manchester United defender Maguire did not play in England’s first two matches against Croatia and Scotland as he recovers from ankle ligament damage sustained against Aston Villa in May.
England manager Gareth Southgate included the center-back in his Euro squad in the belief he would be back in time to play some part in the tournament.
Maguire was on the bench for Friday’s 0-0 draw against Scotland and now he is ready to return to action for the Czech showdown at Wembley.
“I’m feeling good. Obviously with the ankle injury, it’s getting stronger, I’m getting more confident,” Maguire told The Lions’ Den.
“The more sessions I do, the more games I play, I’m sure I’ll get more confidence and that’s the thing with these type of injuries.
“I think it’s just about building the confidence. It’s all stable now and I’m available and I’m ready to go.”
England will finish top of Group D if they beat the Czechs and Maguire urged his side to get back on track after the drab Scotland stalemate.
“The boys have put ourselves in a great position in the group — four points from two games — although obviously we want to win every football match so we’d like to be on six,” he said.
“But it’s still in a strong position and now it’s another big game against the Czechs and one we’re looking forward to and we go there and try and get three points.”


Saudi Arabia entices investors to rapidly growing sports economy

The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets. (Supplied)
The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets. (Supplied)
Updated 21 June 2021

Saudi Arabia entices investors to rapidly growing sports economy

The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets. (Supplied)
  • ‘NAFES’ launched to encourage investment and ownership in sports clubs, academies and centers

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is inviting global investors to take full ownership of clubs, academies and centers across 27 of its most popular sports. 

The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets.

“We are inviting the world to partner with us on our journey of sporting transformation. Our country’s incredible passion for sport is well known and, as more get active and take up sport, the economic opportunity is exciting,” said Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal.

He added: “Sport is an integral component of our Kingdom’s transformative Vision 2030, and we would not have achieved these massive strides if it were not for the unconditional support by our Kingdom’s leadership led by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and the Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

NAFES will attract private investment to help increase the number of clubs, academies and centers across sport and to boost competition among athletes. 

The Saudi sports economy has grown 174 percent in the last three years and its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) has increased by 22 percent.

“NAFES is our invitation to overseas partners to drive our sporting investment to the next level and to collaborate across our sports clubs, academies and centers,” Prince Abdulaziz said, adding: “It is a turning point for the Kingdom’s sports sector. Our message to investors and the private sector both in Saudi Arabia and across the globe is direct and clear, establish your clubs, compete and draw the future path of Saudi sports investment.”

The launch of NAFES falls under Saudi Arabia’s “Quality of Life” sports program, which is part of the country’s Vision 2030 reform plans. 

It has already launched partnerships with some of the world’s biggest sports events and governing bodies.

The investments have resulted in a 37 percent growth in Saudis participating in weekly sport activities between 2015 and 2019, alongside a 149 percent increase in women and girls exercising during the same time period. During the coronavirus pandemic, over four million enjoyed home fitness classes as part of the “Baytak Nadeek” initiative by the Saudi Sports For All Federation.

Saudi Arabia has hosted around 50 international events in the last three years. These have included events in international football, the PGA European Tour golf, WWE, tennis and boxing. The country’s motorsport calendar features the Dakar Rally, Formula E, Extreme E and from December, the first ever Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Historically, the Saudi sports industry was wholly reliant on government funding. But following this policy change, the government is aiming to accelerate the growth of the sports industry by increasing the role of the private sector.

NAFES will also aim to raise the percentage share of the sports industry’s contribution towards the Kingdom’s GDP, in addition to increasing and diversifying local and foreign investment opportunities, and ultimately raising the number of competitive clubs across a wide range of sports.

“This was an organic development that falls in line with our efforts to position Saudi at the forefront of the sporting world globally and that is a crucial part in Saudi Vision 2030,” Prince Abdulaziz said. “As our sporting ambitions continue, we seek to collaborate with partners and strike a healthy balance between public and private sector investment.” 

The sports being offered for ownership via NAFES include football, basketball, swimming, equestrian, tennis, electronic sports, gymnastics, cycling and combat sports. 

Investors are urged to visit this website for more information on all the required steps to apply for their license.


Injured Hummels, Mueller, Gundogan miss Germany training

Injured Hummels, Mueller, Gundogan miss Germany training
Updated 21 June 2021

Injured Hummels, Mueller, Gundogan miss Germany training

Injured Hummels, Mueller, Gundogan miss Germany training
  • Trio started Saturday's 4-2 win over Portugal which put the Mannschaft's European Championship campaign back on track
  • Hummels and Mueller are both resting knee injuries, while Gundogan took a blow to the calf

HERZOGENAURACH/GERMANY: Mats Hummels, Thomas Mueller and Ilkay Gundogan missed Germany training on Monday with injury knocks, two days before their crunch match against Hungary at Euro 2020.
The trio all started Saturday’s 4-2 win over Portugal which put the Mannschaft’s European Championship campaign back on track, but Hummels and Mueller are both resting knee injuries, while Gundogan took a blow to the calf.
German daily Bild claim Mueller will miss the Hungary game on Wednesday, but a DFB spokesman denied the report and insisted it was too early to say.
Replacement right-back Lukas Klostermann, who has yet to play a minute of Euro 2020, also sat out Monday’s session at Germany’s camp in Bavaria with a hamstring strain.
The German Football Association (DFB) has not said whether Mueller, Gundogan or Hummels will be fit to start their final Group F match against Hungary in Munich.
Germany, who are second in the group, need a win to be sure of reaching last 16, but a draw could be enough if France do not lose to Portugal in Budapest on Wednesday.
Hungary, who are bottom of the table with a point after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with France, must win to avoid elimination.


Tickets for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix go on sale as Yas Marina Circuit welcomes Formula One fans back

Tickets for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix go on sale as Yas Marina Circuit welcomes Formula One fans back
Updated 21 June 2021

Tickets for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix go on sale as Yas Marina Circuit welcomes Formula One fans back

Tickets for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix go on sale as Yas Marina Circuit welcomes Formula One fans back
  • About 16,000 seats will be available for race weekend, which will take place from December 9-12 and see the return of the Yasalam after-race concerts

Tickets for the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have gone on sale to the public as Yas Marina Circuit looks set to welcome motorsports fans back for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the only fans in attendance were 600 Frontline Heroes who were invited to enjoy the complete Yas Island experience in recognition of their efforts during the pandemic.

After hosting several international sporting events with live audiences this year, the UAE capital is offering a limited number of tickets for race weekend on Dec. 9-12.

“We are absolutely thrilled to announce tickets are now on sale for the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021 as we look to welcome fans back to Yas Marina Circuit for a fantastic weekend of sport and entertainment,” said Saif Al-Noaimi, the acting CEO of Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management.

“Obviously there are capacity limits due to the current guidelines that have been published in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “We are operating at a capacity of 30 percent, so tickets are going to be limited. We urge people to go and purchase tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.”

This means that more than 16,000 seats will available at Yas Marina Circuit.

“Naturally, spectators play a huge role in creating the special atmosphere we have come to associate with the event, and we are delighted they will be in attendance once again, giving them an opportunity to watch some of Formula One’s biggest stars go head-to-head out on the track,” Al-Noaimi added.

Fans attending this year’s event can look forward to the return of the traditional Yasalam after-race concerts, produced by Flash Entertainment, with four AAA artists, who will be announced in due course, performing each night over the course of race weekend.

The on-track action will be enhanced by changes to the track, with the aim of increasing competition at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and all other motorsport events at the venue. The changes will be implemented over the summer to increase the potential for overtaking and improve the overall visual spectacle.

“Over the coming months we will continue to work alongside Formula One and all key stakeholders to ensure the relevant safety procedures are implemented to guarantee the safety of everybody present, as we have done for all events hosted at Yas Marina Circuit since the outbreak of COVID-19,” said Al-Noaimi.

In compliance with government directives, new measures are in place for this year’s event, including designated Oasis areas, an enhanced food and beverage service where orders can be delivered directly to tables and a Track Walk, which will replace Thursday’s Pit Lane Walk.

Regular seats are available on Abu Dhabi Hill and in the main grandstand, and tickets will provide access to food and beverage outlets, live DJ sets and the Yasalam after-race concerts at Etihad Park. Due to safety considerations this year, all ticket holders will be able to attend only one of the concerts over the weekend.

“What is extra special is that artists are so enthused about performing as part of Yasalam. They have seen Abu Dhabi’s coordinated response to COVID-19 and see race weekend as a great way to re-engage with their followers, live, in person, in a safe environment,” said John Lickrish, CEO of Flash Entertainment.

“There is huge appetite from fans of live events to feel that thrill again. Nothing comes close. Watch this space for some exciting announcements in the coming months as we continue working with Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, Formula One, and all stakeholders to deliver another truly memorable, safe, sports and entertainment experience.”

Hospitality package options include Yas Suites, Marina Views Suite, Champions Club, Shams Suite and the Paddock Club. Tickets will be issued closer to the event.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will also celebrate the UAE’s 50th anniversary through a series of events in the various entertainment zones and the Heritage Village.

Strict precautionary measures will be in operation at Yas Marina Circuit for this year’s event.

UAE residents attending must have received two doses of a UAE-approved COVID-19 vaccine, as well as providing a negative PCR test result. Non-UAE residents will also need to provide authorised documentation and evidence of vaccination, along with a negative PCR test result.

Other precautionary measures include temperature checking, venue sanitization and social distancing, and there will be a first aid and COVID-19 testing point on site, which will include a dedicated quarantine room for suspected cases. Children under the age of 12 will not be permitted to attend the event.

Tickets can be purchased via www.yasmarinacircuit.com