Rosberg X Racing make history as first ever Extreme E winner after dramatic Desert X Prix in AlUla

Roseberg X Racing, Andretti United and X44 celebrate their 1-2-3 podium finish in the first ever Desert X Prix. (Supplied/Extreme E)
Roseberg X Racing, Andretti United and X44 celebrate their 1-2-3 podium finish in the first ever Desert X Prix. (Supplied/Extreme E)
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Updated 04 April 2021

Rosberg X Racing make history as first ever Extreme E winner after dramatic Desert X Prix in AlUla

Roseberg X Racing, Andretti United and X44 celebrate their 1-2-3 podium finish in the first ever Desert X Prix. (Supplied/Extreme E)
  • Molly Taylor and Johan Kristoffersson ensure team founded by former Formula 1 champion finished ahead of Andretti United and Lewis Hamilton’s X44

ALULA: Rosberg X Racing have won the inaugural Desert X Prix in the desert of AlUla to become the first team to claim a victory in an Extreme E event thanks to a masterclass of rally driving from Molly Taylor and Johan Kristoffersson.

In the final, former Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg’s team overcame Andretti United and Lewis Hamilton’s X44, who finished second and third on the podium.

The winners may have had a few technical issues over the weekend — not to mention a 60-second penalty in Saturday’s qualification that saw them drop from first to third in the standings — but when it mattered, the team delivered an almost faultless drive.

“I’m so thankful,” said an ecstatic Rosberg. “Thankful to Molly for driving so fantastically throughout the weekend, not a single mistake out there because the penalty was technical problem. She did a fantastic job. Molly was always the fastest out there so that was awesome. And also, Johan’s performance was really inspiring and amazing to watch.” He added that he “felt really proud watching them.”

Including points gained from earlier rounds, Extreme E’s early season leaderboard now sees Rosberg X Racing lead with 35 points followed by X44 on 30 and Andretti United on 28.

“For the sport, it’s been a good start,” Rosberg added. “It’s a start-up and of course it needs to evolve, (which) we need to discuss after the weekend. But it’s really been a good start and with Molly and Johan we got the most deserving winners, most deserving drivers on top of the podium because they been the fastest drivers throughout the weekend.”

Kristoffersson thanked his team for his and Taylor’s success, especially taking into account the earlier troubles.

“First of all, huge congratulations to the team,” the Swedish driver said. “We had some minor issues but we came here very well-prepared, which made our life so much easier out on-track. This sport isn’t only about the drivers; it’s about the team giving us the tools to do the job. With such a limited amount of track time, you need to have confidence that the car will do what you ask of it – and the Rosberg X Racing guys did an amazing job to give Molly and myself such a great car.

The Desert X Prix wrapped up the first of the five-event electric SUV series, which has been designed to raise awareness of change and with each locations highlighting a different environmental issue, beginning with Saudi Arabia and desertification. 

“It was the first time we had experienced terrain like that, and on every lap, the course was changing – there were so many different variables to deal with,” said Taylor. “We just wanted to make the most of the little time we had in the car, every single kilometre.”

“You have to be fast when it counts, be smart when it counts and take the big moves when it counts, and for it to all come together when it mattered was really special, “ the Australian added. “Huge thanks to Johan, his opening laps were just insane, and the team has done such an incredible amount of work behind-the-scenes.”

Next up for the awareness-raising series will be Senegal (rising sea levels), followed by stops in Greenland (melting ice caps), the Amazon in Brazil (deforestation) and Patagonia, Argentina (glacial recession).  

Saturday’s qualifying rounds had seen X44, ACCIONA Sainz XE Team and Rosberg X Racing finish as the top three, securing their passage into Sunday’s semi-final, from which the top two would qualify to the final. Andretti United, meanwhile qualified to the Crazy Race against Hispano Suiza Xite Energy Team, and Jenson Button’s JBXE, with winner getting a ticket to the final race

The results led to the teams led by former F1 rivals taking on Catie Munnings and Timmy Hansen, who had come major obstacles to get to that stage.

But as winners of the fan-led GridPlay vote, Andretti United had the luxury of choosing their starting spot for the Final. Hansen went for pole position on the right, with Kristoffersson lining up in the middle for Rosberg X Racing and X44’s Loeb taking up the third grid slot on the left.

Hansen had a flying start but after being overtaken by Loeb, there was only going to be one winner.

Munnings was delighted with the second place finish.

“I just don’t have the words, I’m smiling so much,” she said. “Timmy [Hansen] is my absolute hero, just a legend. His starts today have been incredible, which has made my job easy and all about bringing it home. With the puncture back at the beginning of Qualifying, who would have thought we would be here in second place now? The hard work paid off and we managed to turn our weekend around.”

The British driver also delivered a thumbs up for the new series, particularly as it has given female drivers as many spots places and equal driving time as their male counterparts.

“Extreme E offers an amazing platform for female drivers, and it’s super cool to be racing against such fast girls,” she said. “It’s been really nice to see everyone coming together, encouraging each other and creating a competitive environment, and all of us, men and women alike, have been learning on the job and having a great time while doing it.”

Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Extreme E said he couldn’t have wished for better start for Extreme E.

“We’ve worked so hard on this for many years, and finally everything has come together this weekend,” he said. “It really has been beyond my wildest expectations. If I had written a script for the perfect weekend, I could not have come up with anything better than what we have witnessed these past two days. I’ve never seen such extreme racing in my life.”

With the Desert X Prix now done-and-dusted, the cars will be loaded back onto the St. Helena – Extreme E’s floating centrepiece – to set sail for Lac Rose in Senegal, the setting for the Ocean X Prix on May 29-30.

Extreme Championship Standings:

Rosberg X Racing (Johan Kristoffersson / Molly Taylor) 35 points

X44 (Sébastien Loeb / Cristina Gutiérrez) 30 points

Andretti United (Timmy Hansen / Catie Munnings) 28 points

ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team (Carlos Sainz / Laia Sanz) 26 points

Hispano Suiza XITE Energy Team (Oliver Bennett / Christine Giampaoli Zonca) 20 points

JBXE (Jenson Button / Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky) 17 points

ABT Cupra XE (Mattias Ekström / Claudia Hürtgen) 13 points

Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing (Kyle LeDuc / Sara Price) 12 points

Veloce Racing (Stéphane Sarrazin / Jamie Chadwick) 8 points


Paulinho won’t be missed by Al-Ahli after sudden departure

Paulinho won’t be missed by Al-Ahli after sudden departure
Updated 19 September 2021

Paulinho won’t be missed by Al-Ahli after sudden departure

Paulinho won’t be missed by Al-Ahli after sudden departure
  • Brazilian midfielder has had his contract terminated by the club after returning home for personal reasons

Paulinho’s last meaningful act as an Al-Ahli player was getting bundled over in the box after 15 minutes to earn his team a penalty against Al-Fateh. That was on Friday but the very next day it was announced that his three-year contract with the Saudi Arabian giants had been terminated after just two months.

It is a blow to the club, struggling with five points from the first five games constituting the second worst-ever start to the season, and the league. Paulinho’s arrival after six successful years in China (a spell punctuated by a year in Barcelona) was another suggestion that the Saudi Professional League had become Asia’s go-to competition for talented foreign stars.

The understandable question for those fans in Jeddah and around the country is: What happened? 

The club’s official statement revealed little. “Al-Ahli club management, headed by Mr. Majed bin Ayed Al-Nefaie, has completed the procedures for terminating the contract of the Brazilian professional player “Paulinho” by mutual consent,” it said. It added: “The termination of the contract with Paulinho comes due the emergency circumstances, he spoke with the club’s management recently, which was reflected in his performance on the field during the past rounds, expressing his inability to provide the desired addition to the team.”

 

 

Speaking to Saudi television, Paulinho, who scored two goals in his four appearances, said that many things had been happening in life, including a fire breaking out at his house in Brazil, also home to his parents. A Brazilian radio show said that Paulinho was leaving Saudi Arabia for personal reasons and had recently been approached by Luiz Felipe Scolari, his former coach in Guangzhou and Brazil, currently in charge of Gremio.

The expectation in Brazil had been that the 33-year-old would return home after his China spell ended — his contract at Guangzhou was terminated because travel restrictions in place in China meant he could not enter the country. The expectation will now again be that he will return to sign either for his former club Corinthians, which he left in 2013 to sign for Tottenham Hotspur, or Gremio. This is the feeling at Al-Ahli too. 

Al-Nefaie added to the club’s statement, saying that there was no reason to keep a player who did not want to be there. 

“We tried a lot but it was clear that he didn’t want to stay,” Al-Nefaie said, according to Saudi radio station UFM. “After several such attempts, we decided to terminate the contract rather than pay a high salary to a player who doesn’t want to be there. The club is more important than any player.”

The message coming from Al-Ahli is clear: Paulinho didn’t want to stay and so there was little point in keeping him.

The midfielder is not the first and won’t be the last foreign player to sign a lucrative contract in Asia only to leave soon after. Only he knows whether there was a genuine emergency at home that means he can’t stay in Saudi Arabia or whether he simply wants to go and play elsewhere. It is credit to the club that the situation has been dealt with and resolved so quickly. There is not going to be any distracting saga developing here. Paulinho has gone and Al-Ahli have to move forward.

It could be that Paulinho’s most significant contribution to the long-term success of Al-Ahli was his parting request for fans to be patient. After a disappointing season last time when the club finished eighth in the league and there were rows about reported unpaid salaries, there were high hopes this time around with a new coach in Besnik Hasi and new players like, well, Paulinho.

“It is difficult to change a club in just a few days,” Paulinho said. “I know that Al-Ahli is a big project and I say to the fans that they need to be patient for some time because the current administration will take the club back to the top.”

“I know that last season was not great and we did not start well in the league this season with all these draws not normal for a club the size of Al-Ahli. The situation will improve because those in charge are professional, they will definitely change this situation.”

That attempt will continue without him on Thursday with an important game against Al-Feiha. Fans will be curious to see where Paulinho turns up next, but he wasn’t around long enough to be missed.


Kafo triumph at first Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia

Kafo triumph at first Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia
Updated 19 September 2021

Kafo triumph at first Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia

Kafo triumph at first Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia
  • The winners will now represent the Kingdom at November’s GGWCUP grand finale in Iceland after coming out on top in the 26-team all-female tournament

RIYADH: Kafo have won the first ever Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia event in Diriyah and will now represent the Kingdom at the GGWCUP grand finale in Iceland this November.

Hosted by the Saudi Sports for All Federation at Elite Sports Center in Diriyah, the Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia was contested among 26 all-female teams advocating social and environmental sustainability while battling on the pitch in a 5-a-side football tournament as part of their campaigns to highlight the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The GGWCUP movement was launched in 2015 and since then it has invited women around the world to use sport and the 17 SDGs to make a positive impact in their communities.

“I congratulate all of the 26 teams for having the drive and conviction to take part in the first GGWCUP Saudi Arabia, and for all of their individual contributions to the success of this event championing the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, president of the Saudi Sports for All Federation.

“The determination the competitors have shown not just today but since the beginning of the GGWCUP is admirable, and they have set an example for us all on being people that can positively impact their local communities with a global ideal. Special congratulations to Kafo, who will be making us proud as they go on to represent Saudi Arabia on the international stage. We wish them the very best of luck and we will be there cheering them on.”

Over the past nine months, teams from across the Kingdom have been campaigning for and educating people about their chosen SDG, hosting community events, talks and awareness programs.

The GGWCUP Saudi Arabia event in Diriyah was the culmination of these efforts, which saw teams give presentations to a panel of judges at a private event on Thursday, followed by a two-day tournament open to members of the public.

Despite being the inaugural GGWCUP event in the Kingdom, this won’t be the first time a team from Saudi Arabia has been to the finals. In 2019, the SFA-founded Saudi Greens took second place at the finals in New York City. It was the first time a female sports team from the Kingdom had competed in the US.

Since then, the SFA has introduced several sports initiatives for women, such as the Women’s Football League, and an online Women’s Fitness Festival.

“GGWCUP Saudi Arabia is yet another fine example of how talented, skilled and passionate our nation’s women are,” said Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini, managing director of the Saudi Sports for All Federation.

“Over the past couple of years, we have worked hard to ensure sport and active opportunities are available to women across the Kingdom, and the success of these all-female teams and the event itself highlights the great strides we have made together.

“Congratulations to Kafo and good luck in Iceland.”

Majken Gilmartin, GGWCUP co-founder, added: “Congratulations to all the 26 teams for taking part in the tournament and their impressive community initiatives, their willingness to show up is what success is all about. The partnership with the Saudi Sports for All Federation to bring the first-ever GGWCup tournament in the Kingdom helps us reach our objective of inspiring women through sports while making an impact on SDGs with community initiatives. We look forward to seeing Kafo in the finals.”

GGWCUP Saudi Arabia, part of the SFA’s mission, is supported by the Ministry of Sport and mandated by Vision 2030’s Quality of Life Program to increase the number of people in the Kingdom exercising at least once a week to 40 percent by 2030.


Al-Ittihad top, Al-Hilal in the groove: 5 things we learned from latest run of Saudi Pro League matches

Al-Ittihad top, Al-Hilal in the groove: 5 things we learned from latest run of Saudi Pro League matches
Updated 19 September 2021

Al-Ittihad top, Al-Hilal in the groove: 5 things we learned from latest run of Saudi Pro League matches

Al-Ittihad top, Al-Hilal in the groove: 5 things we learned from latest run of Saudi Pro League matches
  • Al-Nassr coach Mano Menezes under pressure after AFC Champions League success was followed by 3-1 loss to leaders Al-Ittihad

It was another action-packed program in the Saudi Professional League with goals galore. Below are five things we learned from the fifth round of the 2021-22 season.

1. Moussa Marega and Bafetimbi Gomis look dangerous

The two strikers scored all Al-Hilal’s goals in their 3-2 win over Al-Ettifaq amid signs that the champions are starting to get into their domestic groove. There is more to it than that, however, as the pair are starting to link up well together.

In the league so far this season, the Riyadh giants have developed a habit of leaving it late, but not this time. In the 17th minute, Marega slipped Gomis through and the Frenchman’s shot came back off the post, but soon after Marega made no mistake from a similar position. Then it was the turn of Gomis, who added two more in the second half. If one doesn’t get you, the other will.

This week, instead of Al-Hilal in search of late goals, they were left hanging on as Al-Ettifaq scored twice against the tiring hosts. As coach Leonardo Jardim said, it was a wake-up call and a reminder that even with such striking talent, if you take your foot off the pedal in this league you run the risk of being punished.

2. Mano Menezes is on the brink

Fresh after reaching the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League on Tuesday, Al-Nassr were brought back down to earth with a bump, losing 3-1 at home to Al-Ittihad in this week’s big game.

It means that the pressure is well and truly back on coach Mano Menezes after a second league defeat this season, and the Brazilian cut a forlorn figure as he left the Marsool Park pitch.

He will point to the missed penalty by Abderrazzak Hamdallah, which would have brought back the scoreline to 2-2, as well as the chances missed by his team, but the former Brazil boss will know why his team lost. The problems were at the back. Three times the Tigers, roared on by their traveling supporters, cut through the Al-Nassr backline with relative ease.

If Menezes is still in a job next Thursday, the home game against Al-Batin is simply a must-win.

3. Al-Ahli coach under pressure after nightmare start

Al-Ahli’s 1-1 draw with Al-Fateh is not, on the face of it, a terrible result against a team going well, but for the Jeddah giants it was in reality a poor result. In fact, the fifth draw in five matches so far this season marks the second-worst start in the club’s history.

The team started brightly and took the lead, but have struggled with concentration in discipline in recent games and the same happened again just five minutes later. There were six white-shirted defenders in the area when Sofiane Bendebka’s shot bounced back off the bar and was headed in by Firas Al-Buraikan, but nobody was alert enough to either danger.

With expectations high going into the season, it is no surprise that there is pressure on coach Besnik Hasi. The former Anderlecht, Legia Warsaw and Olympiacos boss, now without the departed Paulinho, has to find solutions, and quickly. Al-Ahli have looked decent so far but obviously there is something missing, and if Hasi doesn’t find it soon he will be looking for a new job.

4. Al-Ittihad looking like title challengers

The game at Al-Nassr was always going to be a test of Al-Ittihad’s title credentials, and the 3-1 win meant they passed with flying colors. With Igor Coronado oozing class in attack and Abdulrahman Al-Obod having an excellent game on the left, the Tigers always carried a goal threat, especially on the counter.

After the opening-day defeat, there have been four successive wins with 14 goals scored and just three conceded in that time. Al-Ittihad are very much the form team at the moment and with no Asian commitments until next year, are looking to get plenty of points on the board to put the pressure on Al-Hilal, who are going to be desperate to win the Champions League with the quarterfinals and the semifinals both taking place within a few days of each other next month. Al-Ittihad will be hoping Al-Hilal reach the final and will be looking forward to their next game against the struggling Al-Taawoun.

5. We may have seen the game of the season…

Or at least the half of the season. Al-Taawoun have had huge problems this season in throwing away substantial leads, and did so to amazing effect at home to Al-Raed to lose 5-3.

Al-Taawoun scored three goals between the 52nd and 57th minute to come back from a goal down to lead 3-1 and, surely, even this team was not going to throw this lead away. The visitors, who have had a great start to the season, had other ideas, however, and soon scored three goals in seven minutes to make it 4-3. There was still time to add a fifth.

It was a roller-coaster second-half full of entertainment and twists and turns. Talking of roller-coasters, it left Al-Taawoun languishing at the bottom and put Al-Raed, for a day at least, at the top.


Route and prize money for 2021 ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon announced

Route and prize money for 2021 ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon announced
Updated 19 September 2021

Route and prize money for 2021 ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon announced

Route and prize money for 2021 ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon announced
  • The third edition of the marathon will have prize money of $303,000 and will take place on Nov. 26

ABU DHABI: The Abu Dhabi Sports Council has revealed the new race route for the third edition of the Abu Dhabi Marathon, sponsored by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

The race, set to take place on Friday, Nov. 26, will have total prize money of $303,000 and also include 10 km and wheelchair categories.

The announcement came in the presence of Aref Hamad Al-Awani, general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council; Andrea Trabuio, ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon Race director; and Kinan Abou Hamdan, marketing director of Nike Middle East and Gulf Marketing Group.

“The third edition of the ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon is witnessing a great turnout of more than 4,000 participants, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic,” said Al-Awani. “It’s an indication of the keenness...of the Abu Dhabi community to participate in the event.”

The race categories available for runners will be the individual 42.2 km marathon; a marathon relay for teams of two with distances of 10 km, 5 km and 2.5 km; and a wheelchair race category.  

The total prize fund for the 2021 edition will be AED 1.11 million ($303,000) and will be shared across the various categories, with the elite male and female winners of the marathons taking home $50,000 each.  

A bonus cash prize of $30,000 will also be awarded should runners break the current course records of 2:04:40 and 2:21:01 for the male and female races, respectively. Cash prizes of $8,500 and $11,000 will be awarded to winners of the wheelchair and 10 km categories, respectively.

“We are delighted with the partnership with ADNOC, which already embodies its corporate identity and its strategy through its sponsorship and support for the marathon and all global and community sporting events,” Al-Awani added. “We are also thankful for the presence of the sports brand Nike among the list of sponsors of the ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon, as well as for the support of the Department of Community Development, General Command of Abu Dhabi Police, Department of Municipalities and Transport, Tadweer and Al Ain Water.”

The 2021 ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon will start in front of the ADNOC Headquarters, with direct views of the Founder’s Memorial, while runners participating in the 2.5 km, 5 km and 10 km races will begin on 18th Street.

Following the start gun, runners will head out along the Corniche and loop around Qasr Al-Hosn, one of Abu Dhabi’s oldest historical stone buildings. Participants will then pass the Emirates Heritage Village before making their way behind Marina Mall, running up and down King Abdulla Street, and returning to the Corniche for a final loop of Qasr Al-Hosn.

Marathon runners will cross the finish line in the event village, located in the South Plaza of the ADNOC HQ Campus, while all other participants will finish in 18th Street, opposite the ADNOC Welcome Center. 


Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi has 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas firmly in sight after comeback from accident

Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi has 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas firmly in sight after comeback from accident
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi has 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas firmly in sight after comeback from accident

Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi has 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas firmly in sight after comeback from accident
  • The 39-year-old and Toyota co-driver Michael Orr lead the standings going into the season-closing race in Portugal

When Saudi rally driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi and his Irish colleague Michael Orr head to the Baja Portalegre in Portugal at the end of October, they will be just one race away from being crowned world champions.

The Toyota duo currently lead the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas (T1) standings after winning the Italian Baja last week.

It would be, in fact already is, one of the most remarkable motorsports comebacks in recent times.

“I really feel happy, we had an accident that made us miss two races earlier this year, and we have worked hard to reach this point,” Al-Rajhi told Arab News. “It wasn’t easy at all, we made a big comeback to defend our title, a solid comeback I would say, to regain the World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas’s title.”

“Sharqiyah Baja was the second stop for us in the World Cup after we won Dubai Baja,” the 39-year-old said. “We were supposed to enter the first round of the World Cup, which was Baja Russia, but I had to skip regarding to my business commitments.”

Yazeed A-Rajhi and Michael Orr have recovered form a crash earlier this year to lead the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas. (Yazeed Racing)

It was at the Sharqiyah Baja in Saudi Arabia that Al-Rajhi and Orr would suffer an accident that would keep both of them out of action for varying periods of time.

“We had started strongly and we were in the lead until the day of the accident,” the Saudi driver said. “It was an unfortunate day for us and for some contenders in the other categories, and we sadly lost one of our own in that Baja.”

“Michael and I had minor injuries in the neck but my recovery was faster than his,” Al-Rajhi said. “I had to skip two months of driving for recovery. After that, I made my comeback at the Andalucia Rally with Dirk von Zitzewitz who covered Michael’s place until his comeback at Silk Way Rally.”

Since Orr’s return, the duo have set a relentless pace to once again lead the standings going into the season-closing Baja Portalegre on Oct. 28-30. Al-Rajhi is grateful to be still in contention.

“Although the incident was a major setback for our strong ongoing pace and we had to fight from the back to regain our place in the lead, we are glad that we are alive and had the chance to come back and compete for it,” he said.

Al-Rajhi insists that he does not see anyone race or win as more important than any other, but all part of the same journey toward the championship.

“Well, we will enter the last Baja of the season, which will be held in Portugal, with the same spirit and mentality as we did before,” he said. “Every race has its own mystery and surprises so we will stay focused, and we’re looking forward to continue fighting and to win the World Cup title.”

The Toyota of Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Michael Orr. (Yazeed Racing)

A triumph would be the latest high point for Saudi motorsports, which in recent years has had its profile raised by the hosting of several of the world’s biggest and most famous races; the Dakar Rally, Formula E, Extreme E and this year for the first time, in December, the Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Jeddah.

Above all, the Saudi Arabian Automobile and Motorcycle Federation is looking to invest in producing home-grown champions in the coming years.

“Our government is encouraging a new generation of Saudis to get involved in the sport, and there are more and more achievements being experienced in the motorsport industry in the Kingdom,” he said. “The reason behind this is the ambitious Vision 2030 by his Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

“Absolutely the federation’s support is always needed in motorsports and I believe that they are playing a massive role in supporting the young and rookie talents,” Al-Rajhi said. “I started in rallies when the SAMF was established in 2007, long before many other Saudi racers at the time. So I know how it feels to be new in the field. I’m always happy to see young talent who want to follow my lead.”

“I was the youngest Saudi driver to win a rally on home soil and the first Saudi to win a stage in Dakar, the toughest race in the world,” he said. “I’m really happy to see the young generation rising.”

And as for Al-Rajhi’s biggest ambition, his answer is unequivocal.

“To win Dakar many times in the future, especially at home.”