9-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb boosts Dakar bid with historic win for BRX

9-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb boosts Dakar bid with historic win for BRX
Sebastien Loeb on his way to a historic stage win at Dakar 2022. (BRX)
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Updated 03 January 2022

9-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb boosts Dakar bid with historic win for BRX

9-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb boosts Dakar bid with historic win for BRX
  • Team’s maiden stage victory in world’s toughest rally is first ever by car using sustainable fuel

Sebastien Loeb underlined his challenge for a first Dakar Rally triumph today as he delivered a historic stage victory for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team in Saudi Arabia.

The nine-time World Rally Champion, partnered by Fabian Lurquin in one of the three BRX Prodrive Hunters, was fastest on the 338 kilometer stage from Hail to Al Artawiya by 3 minutes, 28 seconds, from overnight leader Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar.

The result saw Loeb cut Al-Attiyah’s advantage alongside Matthieu Baumel in a Toyota Hilux to 9 minutes, 16 seconds ahead of tomorrow’s 255 kilometer special from Al Artawiya to Al Qaysumah.

The first stage win for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter on the Dakar rally came after 3 hours and 25 minutes of hard driving through the northern part of Saudi Arabia.

It is also the very first Dakar stage victory in a car running on sustainable fuel. The Hunter used Prodrive EcoPower, which is made from agricultural waste that reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent.

Loeb’s teammates Nani Roma and Alex Haro further confirmed the pace of the Hunter with a fifth place on the stage for the all-Spanish crew as competitors tackled the first big dunes of the 44th Dakar.

Orlando Terranova with Dani Oliveras in the third BRX car came home in 13th position to maintain their overall top ten place in the world’s largest and most demanding motor sports event, which covers 8,375 kilometers over two weeks.

“It was a real battle as Nasser was pushing very hard over the sand as he was opening the stage, and really fast,” said Loeb. “We pushed hard like we were on a WRC rally for 340 kilometers, so it was exciting and really tough, but we had a fantastic result at the end.

“Toward the end of the stage, Nasser and I were driving together through the dunes, but then there were a lot of stones,” he said. “I tried to lead so I could pick the line and try to avoid a puncture so we could finish the stage well, as yesterday I had two flats.

“It was not such a big question of navigation today as the line was really clear to see for Fabian. It’s a fantastic result for BRX and proof of the benefits of sustainable fuel for such long-distance events. After an enormous amount of work by so many people over so many months, we are proud to take this first stage win for the team.”

Gus Beteli, the BRX team principal, said: “A great day with the first stage win for BRX, thanks to Sebastien and Fabian having such great pace all the way through the difficult 338 kilometers.

“It’s quite a big task to beat Nasser in these types of dunes. We’re very happy to have had no major problems, which is the main thing, but we’re well aware that we still have 11 days to go.”


Cavendish thwarted as De Bondt wins Giro 18th stage

Cavendish thwarted as De Bondt wins Giro 18th stage
Updated 8 sec ago

Cavendish thwarted as De Bondt wins Giro 18th stage

Cavendish thwarted as De Bondt wins Giro 18th stage
  • The powerfully-built 30-year-old De Bondt outsprinted Jumbo’s Edoardo Affini for a photo finish as Magnus Cort of EF was third and Davide Bardiani of CSF fourth after they had worked together over two laps of a tight downtown circuit at Treviso

TREVISO, Italy: Belgian Dries De Bondt won stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday as a quartet of escapees defied a frantic bid from the sprinters to reel them in over the final kilometer.

The final flat stage on this 21-day race around Italy was supposed to be the last chance for sprinters such as Arnaud Demare and Mark Cavendish, but in a rare event the mass bunch sprint was denied by the escape group.

“It’s a we question, not an I question. It was a collaboration (working together) until the last kilometer,” De Bondt said.

“Everyone said Cavendish or Demare or (Alberto) Dainese was going to win — it was written in the stars.

“But there was no moment of doubt, nobody skipped one turn,” he said of the escape.

The powerfully-built 30-year-old De Bondt outsprinted Jumbo’s Edoardo Affini for a photo finish as Magnus Cort of EF was third and Davide Bardiani of CSF fourth after they had worked together over two laps of a tight downtown circuit at Treviso.

The sprint pack started that 20km slog with a deficit of only 2 minutes, and would have caught the quartet on a less technically demanding circuit.

Frenchman Demare of FDJ still leads in the sprint points rankings with a tally of 254 while the 37-year-old Cavendish is second on 132.

Ecuadorian former Giro winner Richard Carapaz of Ineos maintains his 03sec lead in the overall standings on Australian Jai Hindley.

“Today was a fast stage. We thought it was going to be relaxed and easy but it went quickly today,” said Carapaz, who had been hoping for a slower run ahead of the finale.

Hindley had a fright on Thursday when he took a puncture late in the race.

“The rules say if it’s in the last 3km its ok, you don’t lose time,” said a relieved Bora director Jens Zemka.

“We are highly motivated for the run in,” he said.

Bahrain Victorious leader Mikel Landa is third at 1min 05sec.

“If I see any opportunities I’ll attack,” said the Spaniard. “There’s no fear of losing my podium place now (Joao) Almeida is out.”

Almeida’s hopes of finishing on the podium ended overnight as he withdrew after testing positive for Covid-19 when he was just 49 sec off third-placed Mikel Landa.

Friday’s ride from Marano Lagunare to Santuario di Castelmonte features four climbs.

But Saturday’s high altitude affair will be the real showdown as it climbs over 2000m altitude three times.

Sunday’s final stage is a medium length 17.4km individual time-trial into Verona where Carapaz claimed overall victory three years ago.


Swiatek runs streak to 30 as Tsitsipas survives another French Open epic

Swiatek runs streak to 30 as Tsitsipas survives another French Open epic
Updated 40 min 58 sec ago

Swiatek runs streak to 30 as Tsitsipas survives another French Open epic

Swiatek runs streak to 30 as Tsitsipas survives another French Open epic
  • Swiatek, the 2020 champion in Paris, is on the best streak since Serena Williams’s 34-match winning run in 2013 and goes on to face Danka Kovinic of Montenegro for a place in the last 16
  • Fourth seed Tsitsipas needed another epic performance to reach the third round, beating world No. 134 and qualifier Zdenek Kolar of the Czech Republic

PARIS: Unstoppable world No. 1 Iga Swiatek racked up her 30th successive victory at the French Open on Thursday as 2021 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas survived another Roland Garros rollercoaster.

Swiatek swept past Alison Riske of the US 6-0, 6-2 to reach the third round as only three of the top 10 women’s seeds survived the opening two rounds.

Eighth-seeded Karolina Pliskova and Danielle Collins, the ninth seed, joined fellow top 10 players, defending champion Barbora Krejcikova, Maria Sakkari, Ons Jabeur, Anett Kontaveit and former winner Garbine Muguruza in failing to reach the last 32.

Swiatek, the 2020 champion in Paris, is on the best streak since Serena Williams’s 34-match winning run in 2013 and goes on to face Danka Kovinic of Montenegro for a place in the last 16.

Swiatek raced through the first set against 43rd-ranked Riske in just 21 minutes and was 3-0 up in the second before the American avoided a ‘double bagel’.

The Pole still managed to take her record of 6-0 sets in 2022 to a season-leading 15.

“I’m pretty happy to play some solid tennis,” said Swiatek who joins third seed Paula Badosa and seventh-seeded Aryna Sabalenka in the last 32.

Fourth seed Tsitsipas needed another epic performance to reach the third round, beating world No. 134 and qualifier Zdenek Kolar of the Czech Republic.

The Greek star saved four set points in the fourth set tiebreaker to win 6-3, 7-6 (10/8), 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (9/7) in a little over four hours.

On Tuesday, Tsitsipas had to come back from two sets down to defeat Lorenzo Musetti in the first round.

Kolar, 25, was playing in his maiden Grand Slam having tried and failed 16 times to qualify.

Tsitsipas will face Sweden’s Mikael Ymer for a place in the last 16.

“He drove me crazy,” said Tsitsipas. “It was really frustrating because he got behind every ball.”

Pliskova was knocked out by French world number 227 Leolia Jeanjean while Collins fell to American compatriot Shelby Rogers 6-4, 6-3.

Pliskova, a semifinalist in Paris in 2017, lost 6-2, 6-2 to 26-year-old Jeanjean.

Jeanjean is the lowest-ranked woman to beat a top 10 player at Roland Garros in 34 years.

Considered a future star at 12, she saw her career abruptly halted by injuries, including a triple dislocation of the knee.

She then left to study in the United States, only returning to top-level tennis at the end of 2020.

“I wanted to come back so as not to regret anything. I think I made the right choice,” she said.

Pliskova has made the second week at Roland Garros just once in 11 visits.

Jeanjean will next face Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu who was fortunate not to be defaulted in her 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-4 win over 30th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Begu, in frustration, bounced a racquet into the crowd which then hit a child who burst into tears.

The supervisor was called but the 31-year-old escaped with a warning.

“It was embarrassing and I apologize,” said Begu.

World No. 3 Badosa overcame a scare to defeat 68th-ranked Kaja Juvan of Slovenia 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.

Spain’s Badosa, a quarter-finalist in 2021, recovered from a break down in the decider to set up a meeting with 29th seed Veronika Kudermetova.

New York-born Badosa has endured a mediocre clay court season with a semifinal run in Stuttgart but early exits at the elite events in Madrid and Rome.

“That competitive streak that I had lost in recent weeks has come back,” she warned.

Simona Halep, the 2018 champion, fell to big-serving Chinese teenager Zheng Qinwen, playing just her second Slam, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Halep admitted after the match that she had suffered a panic attack at the end of the first set. Sabalenka saw off Madison Brengle 6-1, 6-3.

Daniil Medvedev, the men’s second seed, had few problems in making the third round with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Laslo Djere of Serbia.

Medvedev, who made the quarterfinals in 2021, goes on to face another Serb in Miomir Kecmanovic, the 28th seed.

Djere hit 39 winners Thursday but was undone by 68 unforced errors.

Danish teenager Holger Rune reached his first Slam third round with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 win over Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen.

The 19-year-old fired 28 winners and managed to avoid a worrying injury when his foot became lodged in a tarpaulin cover on Court 12.


Qatar braces for 200,000 daily World Cup air passengers; Saudia to play part

Qatar braces for 200,000 daily World Cup air passengers; Saudia to play part
Updated 26 May 2022

Qatar braces for 200,000 daily World Cup air passengers; Saudia to play part

Qatar braces for 200,000 daily World Cup air passengers; Saudia to play part
  • Saudia chief executive Ibrahim Koshy said his airline would run at least 30 daily round trip flights from the cities of Riyadh and Jeddah, that could carry 10,000 fans
  • Qatar Airways will cut flights to destinations that are ‘irrelevant’ to the World Cup, so that it can increase flights to countries taking part

DOHA: Qatar will only let football fans with match tickets enter the Gulf state during the World Cup tournament, officials said Thursday as they announced that scores of shuttle flights would bring in thousands of fans each day from neighboring countries.

Facing growing pressure to cope with the four-week football tournament, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said the national airline would halt some routes to countries not involved in the 32-nation tournament during the tournament and reduce others.

Baker, who is also tourist minister, said Qatar’s Hamad International Airport and the older Doha International Airport would double capacity so that they can process more than 200,000 people a day.

The tiny state is desperately trying to find rooms for the 1.4 million predicted visitors and a top World Cup organizing committee official said only fans with tickets would be allowed in during the four weeks from November 21.

Fans will have to get a special pass, a Haya card, to enter the country and stadiums. They will need a match ticket to get the pass.

Saeed Al-Kuwari, director of the Haya digital platform for the organizers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, told AFP: “The only people who will enter the country during the tournament are holders of the Haya digital card.”

Qataris and legal residents will also be able to enter but authorities have yet to announce how business people will be processed.

Baker announced that Saudia, Kuwait Airways, flydubai and Oman Air will organize more than 160 daily flights from November 20 to bring supporters on one-day trips to see matches.

Officials estimate that more than 20,000 fans could come in each day on the shuttles.

Saudia chief executive Ibrahim Koshy said his airline would run at least 30 daily round trip flights from the cities of Riyadh and Jeddah, that could carry 10,000 fans.

Flydubai would operate at least 30 return flights, Kuwait Airways 10 and Oman Air 24, Baker said.

All flights would be reserved for fans with World Cup tickets who would go through a special booking that Baker promised would provide a “seamless” immigration and security processing as though they were entering on a domestic flight.

Baker said Qatar’s civil aviation authorities were increasing airspace capacity so that the three runways at Hamad airport could operate “continuously” during the World Cup.

He said Qatar Airways would cut flights to destinations that are “irrelevant” to the World Cup, so that it could increase flights to countries taking part.

Some 70 percent of Qatar Airways regular flights would see their times changed so that extra flights can be organized.

The airports would have to handle extra charter flights and airlines that have asked to establish regular lines because of the World Cup.

He said “state of the art immigration systems” would be introduced to speed up the arrival of international passengers.


Bernie Ecclestone arrested in Brazil for illegally carrying a gun

Bernie Ecclestone arrested in Brazil for illegally carrying a gun
Updated 26 May 2022

Bernie Ecclestone arrested in Brazil for illegally carrying a gun

Bernie Ecclestone arrested in Brazil for illegally carrying a gun
  • Brazilian police found an undocumented LW Seecamp .32 gun in Ecclestone’s luggage during an X-ray screening
  • Ecclestone is married to Brazilian-born Fabiana Ecclestone, an FIA vice president and member of the World Motor Sport Council

SAO PAULO: Former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone was arrested in Brazil late on Wednesday for illegally carrying a gun while boarding a private plane to Switzerland, local police said on Thursday.
The Brazilian police found an undocumented LW Seecamp .32 gun in Ecclestone’s luggage during an X-ray screening, police said in a statement, adding that the 91-year-old was then arrested and taken to a facility at Viracopos airport in Campinas.
Ecclestone acknowledged owning the gun, but said he was unaware it was in his luggage at the time, police said. The Briton paid bail and was freed to travel to Switzerland.
Asked about Ecclestone’s arrest, the Sao Paulo state public security office confirmed in a statement to Reuters that a businessman was arrested for possession of a firearm at Campinas’ airport, but did not name him directly.
The office said the “small, silver colored pistol” was out of ammunition and that the arrestee had to pay 6,060 reais ($1,257.55) as bail. The handgun was seized, it added.
Ecclestone was not immediately available for comment on why he had a gun.
He is married to Brazilian-born Fabiana Ecclestone, an FIA vice president and member of the World Motor Sport Council.
Her mother Aparecida Schunck was kidnapped in Sao Paulo in 2016, with criminals demanding 120 million reais ($25.07 million) in ransom before she was freed nine days later in a police raid without any money being paid.
Such kidnappings have become less common in recent years, however.
Ecclestone also suffered a head injury in 2010 after being mugged in central London, his attackers making off with jewelry including a watch.
The Ecclestones attended several events in the South American country in May, including a local Stock Car race in the countryside near Sao Paulo and a meeting with triple world champion Nelson Piquet in Brasilia.
The Ecclestones own a coffee plantation near Sao Paulo, which they bought in 2012 and where they regularly spend time when not in Europe. Piquet drove for Brabham when it was owned by Ecclestone in the 1970s and 80s.
For decades Ecclestone was Mr. Formula One, the man who did the deals, turned the wheels and transformed the sport into today’s billion dollar business.
He was moved aside in 2017 when US-based Liberty Media took control of the commercial rights.


Saudi’s Rakan Al-Rashed targets more points in World Rally Championship 2 after top-10 finish in Portugal

Saudi’s Rakan Al-Rashed targets more points in World Rally Championship 2 after top-10 finish in Portugal
Updated 26 May 2022

Saudi’s Rakan Al-Rashed targets more points in World Rally Championship 2 after top-10 finish in Portugal

Saudi’s Rakan Al-Rashed targets more points in World Rally Championship 2 after top-10 finish in Portugal
  • The 32-year-old driver and businessman was delighted to earn first WRC 2 point in his career after a challenging rally that saw his tires punctured on the opening day

RIYADH: Saudi professional rally driver Rakan Al-Rashed has set his sights on winning more points in the World Rally Championship 2 after securing his first top-10 finish in Portugal.

The 32-year-old, also a successful business professional and entrepreneur, finished 10th in the fourth round of the competition, earning him one point in the rally that attracted 48 teams in his category.

The achievement was even more impressive given Al-Rashed was forced to retire on the first day before the last stage due to punctured tires, but having recovered and restarted, he drove smoothly for the next two days.

He said: “I am extremely happy to score my first point in the WRC 2. This is a moment that I am very proud of because I am one of the least experienced drivers in the mix, so placing 10th in this competition gives me the motivation to work even harder for the rest of the upcoming rallies that I take part in.

“I also realize that there’s still a very long way to go if I want to get better results and win points. Consistency will be the key in getting a top-10 finish and then gradually working my way up to securing a top-five, but my result in Portugal will give me a lot of confidence that I can secure more points in WRC.”

To help him prepare for the Portuguese rally, Al-Rashed had taken part in a local test event in April that used the same track as the WRC 2. He said that the experience was vital in achieving the best result in his career.

“That experience was very important because it prepared me well, but it also did not prepare me on how rough the stages would be,” he said. “The first day was extremely tough for everyone, which resulted in many drivers facing several issues because the race was on a very tough terrain. Nonetheless, the test race in April allowed me to get used to the Portuguese track and what to expect, and that was a great learning experience.”

Al-Rashed will next be in action at the Rally Italia Sardegna, which takes place from June 2-5.

Alongside his rally motorsport career, Al Rashed is also a co-founder and director of Access Bridge Ventures, a leading early-stage venture capital fund, and chairman of Kudu Corp, a leading restaurant chain in Saudi Arabia.