New Saudi Arabia course and regulations set to test pilots in Dakar Rally 2022

The Dakar Rally is being held in Saudi Arabia as part of a ten-year agreement between the Kingdom and Amauri Sport, the owners of the rally. (AFP/File Photo)
The Dakar Rally is being held in Saudi Arabia as part of a ten-year agreement between the Kingdom and Amauri Sport, the owners of the rally. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 22 November 2021

New Saudi Arabia course and regulations set to test pilots in Dakar Rally 2022

The Dakar Rally is being held in Saudi Arabia as part of a ten-year agreement between the Kingdom and Amauri Sport, the owners of the rally. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The 9,000 kilometer rally, which takes place over 14 days, is considered one of the toughest and most demanding challenges in motorsport

LONDON: The Dakar Rally returns in less than 40 days in Saudi Arabia for the third consecutive time, from Jan. 1 to 14, 2022.

The 9,000 kilometer rally, which takes place over 14 days, is considered one of the toughest and most demanding challenges in motorsport, and will cross the most beautiful landscapes and archaeological areas of the Kingdom.

The 44th edition of the Dakar Rally features a completely new track that includes many areas encompassing different types of terrain, where competitors will face new tests. The rally will depart from the Hail desert, head to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, to enjoy a day of rest, before continuing their challenge on the Saudi sand dunes before finishing in Jeddah.

Off the track, the 2022 rally will see several major changes to its regulations, building on previous efforts to ensure equal competition opportunities, and in terms of navigation and to slow down the vehicles to make the race safer (in the motorcycle category).

While the course booklet already highlights danger zones, racers will now also receive audible alerts as they approach these areas to keep them alert. Dangerous and complex areas will be subject to “slow zones,” where the maximum speed will be limited to 90kmph.

In order to improve safety measures for competitors, it will be mandatory to wear airbag jackets, which will be checked and confirmed by the race officials during the technical examination phase.

The Dakar Rally is being held in Saudi Arabia as part of a ten-year agreement between the Kingdom and Amauri Sport, the owners of the rally.


Eddie Howe impressed with first-class treatment in Saudi as he eyes Newcastle transfer progress

Eddie Howe impressed with first-class treatment in Saudi as he eyes Newcastle transfer progress
Updated 37 sec ago

Eddie Howe impressed with first-class treatment in Saudi as he eyes Newcastle transfer progress

Eddie Howe impressed with first-class treatment in Saudi as he eyes Newcastle transfer progress
  • Magpies are 3 days into Jeddah warm weather training camp and will face Al-Ittihad behind closed doors on Friday
  • In Howe’s absence from the UK, the club have been busy working their way through a transfer wanted list, with four new players being targeted

JEDDAH: Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe has been impressed with United’s first-class welcome to Saudi Arabia.

The Magpies are three days into a six-day warm weather training camp in the Middle East as they prepare for their next Premier League outing against manager-less Everton on Feb. 8.

And Howe admits that he has been left impressed with the Kingdom and its facilities, even if a little less so with the climate.

Speaking from the club’s Jeddah training facility, Howe said: “It has been good. It has been hot, which is great when you’re not training. When you’re training, the humidity is tough for the players.

“We have finished a good day, and got what we wanted out of the session. Spirits are high — obviously boosted by the last result.”

While Howe was keen to stress that the visit would be a working trip for his Magpies first-team squad, it has definitely not been a case of all work, no play, in Saudi so far.

Discussing the facilities and his side’s schedule, Howe said: “It is very good. The pitches are of a good standard. We have used the gym regularly since we have been here. We have everything we need.

“We have done a couple of team-building activities as well — really pleased so far. There are some days to go and plenty of work still to do.”

Howe, who greeted local youngsters sharing the club’s Al-Ittihad training facility base, added: “The people have been great and the hotel has been first class. We have been treated well.

“It was nice there (after training) to share a moment with the kids and to see what they are doing with developing their youngsters,” he said. “It has been mutually beneficial from both sides — our side and theirs.”

On Friday evening, Howe’s Magpies take on Saudi Pro League leaders Al-Ittihad at the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium in Jeddah.

The game itself will be behind closed doors, with no fans in attendance and no livestream or footage of the match available.

Howe thinks the game is of definite value for his squad, although he hopes they come out of the challenge unscathed.

“I think a game is a good thing for us,” said Howe. “When you don’t have a game for a while, I think the damage can be, or the doubt can be that you don’t get a feel for the pitch dimensions. We will be back with the correct match distances, which will be good.”

“The most important thing for us is to not get any injuries from the game. Touch wood it goes well and we will be back at 100 percent.”

On the injury front, Howe has revealed that the three players who succumbed to knocks during the 1-0 win at Leeds United last weekend are yet to train with the first-team squad in the Kingdom.

Skipper Jamaal Lascelles, record signing Joelinton and left-back Paul Dummett were all taken off at Elland Road by Howe.

“The three players who came off haven’t trained. We didn’t expect them to immediately,” said the head coach. “I am not sure of the extent of the injuries. It may be that we need scans to determine that — and we haven’t had the luxury of doing that yet.”

One player who is getting closer to availability is Argentine defender Federico Fernandez.

The center-half, widely regarded as United’s best defender, has not played since mid-December, with a thigh issue.

“He is edging closer to returning to the group,” said Howe. “He is not quite there and it is at a delicate stage with him.”

“We want him back but we don’t want to push him and have a setback. We need to manage the next bit right,” he added.

In Howe’s absence from the UK, the club have been busy working their way through a transfer wanted list, with four new players still being targeted before Monday’s 11 p.m. (GMT) transfer deadline.

A move for Brazilian midfielder Bruno Guimaraes is most advanced currently, although United’s transfer deal-makers — Amanda Staveley and Steve Nickson — do have a number of irons in the fire heading towards the final few days of the window.

Howe has set his sights on adding at least “a couple” of new players to his relegation-threatened squad.

He said: “There is a lot of hard work being done back in England. I think I have no news to tell anyone at the moment, but I am being kept regularly updated. My finger is on the pulse with what is happening.

“As we know, it is a tough window, but we just hope we can get a couple more additions to boost the squad.”


Salah scores decisive penalty as Egypt beat Ivory Coast on penalties

Salah scores decisive penalty as Egypt beat Ivory Coast on penalties
Updated 28 min 8 sec ago

Salah scores decisive penalty as Egypt beat Ivory Coast on penalties

Salah scores decisive penalty as Egypt beat Ivory Coast on penalties
  • The Liverpool star smashed home his penalty with the Ivory Coast’s Eric Bailly the only player to fail from the spot
  • Carlos Queiroz’s team will face Morocco in the last eight despite having scored just two goals in their four matches

DOUALA: Mohamed Salah scored the decisive spot-kick as record seven-time champions Egypt beat the Ivory Coast 5-4 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in Douala on Wednesday to reach the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals.
The Liverpool star smashed home his penalty with the Ivory Coast’s Eric Bailly the only player to fail from the spot, and Egypt go on to play Morocco in the last eight in Yaounde on Sunday.
It was a tense last-16 tie which for long spells resembled a battle of attrition on a poor pitch at the Japoma Stadium in Cameroon’s economic capital, and it looked for much of the game as though Egypt would pay for their poor finishing.
However, Carlos Queiroz’s team are now through to the last eight despite having scored just two goals in their four matches in Cameroon so far.
Meanwhile two-time champions the Ivory Coast are out, once again defeated by an Egyptian side who have long held the upper hand in meetings between the continental heavyweights.
This was their 11th AFCON encounter and still Egypt have lost just once to the Elephants.
Among their many successes against the Ivory Coast was their victory on penalties in the 2006 final, and a crushing triumph in the semifinals in 2008.
This match, like those played on Tuesday, was preceded by a moment’s silence in memory of the victims of Monday’s tragic crush in Yaounde.
In the wake of those terrible events, there was none of the chaos that followed the Ivory Coast’s 3-1 win over Algeria in Douala last week, when fans invaded the pitch at the end.
This time the crowd was well below what might have been expected for such a match, but many of those who were present were clearly there to see Salah, judging by the screams every time the Liverpool star’s face appeared on the big screens.
Salah spoke on the eve of the tie of his desperation to win the Cup of Nations, with the last of Egypt’s record seven titles coming in 2010, a year before he made his international debut.
He was the one who delivered the final blow, but only after he and his side squandered a hatful of chances.
The young VfB Stuttgart winger, Omar Marmoush, almost put Egypt ahead with a superb 17th-minute strike from 25 meters that crashed off the top of the bar.
Salah and Mostafa Mohamed were both denied by Badra Ali Sangare in the first half, while the Ivory Coast lost influential midfielder Franck Kessie to injury after just half an hour.
Still the Elephants almost went ahead when the unmarked Ibrahim Sangare saw his acrobatic effort pushed away by Mohamed El Shenawy.
Sebastien Haller, the Elephants’ own Europe-based attacking superstar, struggled to get into the game before two attempts, either side of half-time, tested El Shenawy.
The experienced Al Ahly goalkeeper came off injured after a long delay late on as the game petered out, with Mohamed Abogabal replacing him for extra time.
The Zamalek shot-stopper produced a fine save to deny the excellent Sangare before Haller was taken off, and as the game went to penalties Abogabal tipped Bailly’s kick onto the bar and Salah then had the last word.


Serie A on the verge of financial ruin, says Inter CEO Marotta

Serie A on the verge of financial ruin, says Inter CEO Marotta
Updated 26 January 2022

Serie A on the verge of financial ruin, says Inter CEO Marotta

Serie A on the verge of financial ruin, says Inter CEO Marotta
  • Marotta said that the country's political institutions could no longer ignore the financial plight of Italian soccer
  • Serie A clubs had agreed unanimously earlier this month to cut stadium capacity to 5,000 for two rounds of matches to help curb COVID-19 cases

DUBAI: Italy’s Serie A is at risk of insolvency and needs more financial support from the government during the pandemic as well as stadiums at higher capacity, according to Inter Milan chief executive Giuseppe Marotta.
In an interview with Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Marotta said that the country’s political institutions could no longer ignore the financial plight of Italian soccer.
“It is a system at the edge of the abyss, which without a doubt had already issues before COVID but which has received virtually no support in these two years in the pandemic,” he said.
Marotta is also a member of the federal board of the Italian football association (FIGC) representing Serie A. A spokesperson at the Italian FA told Reuters that they do not usually comment on statements made by board members.
Serie A clubs had agreed unanimously earlier this month to cut stadium capacity to 5,000 for two rounds of matches to help curb COVID-19 cases, but Marotta urged all stakeholders to allow more spectators now.
Italy put off matches and closed stadiums soon after COVID-19 reached the country at the start of 2020 and has kept stadiums at a limited capacity of up to 50 percent ever since it started lifting restrictions.
“Outdoor facilities are without a doubt safe with FFP2 masks, super green pass and capacity reduced to 50 percent. Cutting tickets to 5,000 spectators has been further proof of taking things seriously and another sacrifice for us,” he said.
“If France is getting ready to welcome 100 percent supporters, like it is already happening in England, does it make sense for us to stick to a lower number (of spectators)?“
The former Juventus CEO added that the football industry does not get as much financial aid as other industries because it is not taken seriously.
“Football is still considered the world of ‘rich and stupid’ presidents who waste money away for fun,” he said. “Our world struggles to be recognized for what it is but how can you ignore the fact that professional soccer is an industry like any other?”


Formula E champion Nyck de Vries recalls last season’s triumphs and looks forward to another win in Diriyah E-Prix

Nyck de Vries - who won the first of February 2021’s season-opening double-header in Diriyah - was one of many that were left captivated by Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
Nyck de Vries - who won the first of February 2021’s season-opening double-header in Diriyah - was one of many that were left captivated by Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
Updated 26 January 2022

Formula E champion Nyck de Vries recalls last season’s triumphs and looks forward to another win in Diriyah E-Prix

Nyck de Vries - who won the first of February 2021’s season-opening double-header in Diriyah - was one of many that were left captivated by Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
  • Dutchman debuted as an ABB FIA Formula E driver back in 2019
  • Clinch a dramatic maiden championship for both himself and his team in 2021

RIYADH: Diriyah will always hold a special place in Nyck de Vries’ heart.

It was here, in the north-west of Saudi Arabia’s capital city of Riyadh, that the Dutchman debuted as an ABB FIA Formula E driver back in 2019.

Then, in 2021, he broke another duck in Diriyah, this time the first of his two E-Prix victories to date - one that set the course for De Vries to eventually clinch a dramatic maiden championship for both himself and his team.

Last year, under lights for the first time in the series’ history, and swaying between the 21 turns that sweep the street circuit of the UNESCO World Heritage site, there was a real romance to the races in Saudi Arabia.

And De Vries - who won the first of February 2021’s season-opening double-header - was one of many that were left captivated.

“It’s probably unfair to ask a driver what their favourite track is because we’re biassed, but Diriyah is definitely my favourite track on the calendar,” said De Vries on the eve of the 26-year-old’s first defence of his world title.

“It treated me well last year and also in my first Formula E race back in 2019. I really like the layout because it’s twisty but fast at the same time, the slowest corner is not actually considered a slow-speed corner according to Formula E metrics.

“I enjoy racing there and competing at night makes it a bit more special and unique, at night everything becomes a bit more intense and there’s more emotion.”

In ABB FIA Formula E, all of that intensity, all of that emotion, is played out at speeds of up to 280 km/h and Diriyah’s third year on the E-Prix circuit set the tone for a thrilling championship in 2021.

De Vries, who also emerged victorious in Valencia two stops later, eventually held out on the final race of the year to secure the drivers’ championship by just seven points.

His efforts helped his Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team seal the double by an even finer margin, with four points all the separated Mercedes and Jaguar Racing by the time the chequered flag fell on the final race in Berlin last August.

De Vries and Mercedes are now well-polished outfits going into the 2022 championship, but the same couldn’t be said when they entered ABB FIA Formula E hand-in-hand with Diriyah three years ago.

“In 2019, I started my Formula E season before I could end my Formula 2 season so there was very little time for me to adapt and get ready,” De Vries reflected. “I did a test in the summer but I remember that we didn’t have a lot of time. It was still a very new team. Not only was I very much a rookie, but I felt like we all were as a team.”

Clearly, both driver and team have come a long way since and there has been no let up for either since becoming the first ABB FIA Formula E winners under the FIA’s banner.

After the final race in Berlin last year, De Vries went on to contest two rounds of the European Le Mans Series before the year was out and produced fastest times in testing for both IndyCar and FIA Formula One in December.

Having described his team’s pre-Christmas testing in Valencia as going “very smoothly”, De Vries - one of the most sought-after drivers in motorsport - says the variety of his packed personal schedule helps ensure the Uitwellingerga-native remains razor sharp behind the wheel.

“The only way to keep myself on my toes is to continue to race,” he explained. “I certainly want to stay in Formula E, no doubt about it. I personally believe that it’s important for a driver to stay active and continue practising racing skills in different disciplines.”

Despite heading to Saudi Arabia as champion, De Vries isn’t feeling any extra pressure as he moves from being the hunter to the hunted.

He added: “I’m very much looking forward to a new season and a new championship. We’re the reigning champions and I’m looking forward to being in a position to defend those championships. We have a lot of positivity and excitement in our team, we’re growing as a family and I’m very much looking forward to a new season.

“There’s always pressure, I’m always nervous and I’m always stressed on race days because I care and I want to do well and I want to deliver. But being the reigning champion doesn't change anything. I’m very grateful that I was privileged enough to experience winning the championship and everything that comes with it but there’s no added pressure.”

With that being said, all eyes will be on De Vries when he returns to Diriyah for the first E-Prix of the new campaign from 28-29 January.

He will no doubt be looking to write another memorable chapter of his career at the circuit he loves and, with fans back in the grandstands, De Vries was quick to share some advice for any young Saudis looking to take a leaf out of his book and pursue a career in motorsport.

“Follow your passion and your dreams,” said De Vries. “No one has the right to take courage away from you or say something is impossible.

“It’s a tough journey if you set yourself a goal and you always keep that in mind and work towards that then hard work pays off and further down the line you will get to where you want to be. It’s not always that straight forward but I’d say follow your passions and your dreams and believe in them.”


Premier League clubs agree changes to Covid postponement rules

Premier League clubs agree changes to Covid postponement rules
Updated 26 January 2022

Premier League clubs agree changes to Covid postponement rules

Premier League clubs agree changes to Covid postponement rules
  • The change comes after criticism of the way some clubs were perceived to be exploiting the previous rules
  • If a club could not field 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper either from their squad list or appropriately experienced under-21 players, the match would be postponed

LONDON: Premier League clubs must have at least four positive coronavirus cases in their squad before a match can be called off under new guidance issued Wednesday following a number of controversial postponements.
The change comes after criticism of the way some clubs were perceived to be exploiting the previous rules.
If a club could not field 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper either from their squad list or appropriately experienced under-21 players, the match would be postponed.
But that rule included absences unrelated to Covid-19, such as injury or international duty.
There was a growing belief that teams hit by absences of key players were using the flexibility in the rules to have matches called off.
There have been 22 postponements in the Premier League under the Covid criteria since the omicron variant led to a surge in cases among players and staff in December.
Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow recently said the rules were not fit for purpose, while Tottenham were furious at the league’s decision to grant a postponement request to Arsenal for the north London derby.
“Following a club meeting today, the Premier League’s Covid-19 match postponement guidance has been updated to include a Covid-19 impact threshold,” a Premier League statement said.
“From now on, if a club applies to postpone a match on the grounds of insufficient players due to Covid-19, they must have a minimum of four positive cases within their squad.”
The league said the new rules would take effect before the next Premier League fixture, the rearranged match between Burnley and Watford on February 5.
Some top-flight managers had complained that changing the rules mid-season could force them to play weakened teams if four players had Covid, while other sides had benefited from postponements.
But it was reported that no clubs spoke out against the change at Wednesday’s meeting.
“Throughout the pandemic, the Premier League has adapted its guidance in response to the wider public health situation. The guidance was last updated in December in response to the emergence of the omicron variant,” the statement added.
“Club applications will continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.”