World’s best rally drivers set for battle in Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

World’s best rally drivers set for battle in Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi claims the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, after the final round of the series, in Portugal. (Twitter Photo)
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Updated 16 February 2022

World’s best rally drivers set for battle in Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

World’s best rally drivers set for battle in Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
  • Nasser Al-Attiyah, Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Sam Sunderland go in search of glory as new World Rally-Raid Championship arrives in UAE capital
  • Al-Attiyah’s path to a fourth triumph in the event is under threat from some of the world’s top drivers, including Stephane Peterhansel

ABU DHABI: Some of the World Rally-Raid Championship’s biggest names are gearing to the UAE for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge next month.

With the teams fighting for the world titles assembling in the UAE capital, the stage is set for the most eagerly awaited showdown in the event’s 31-year history from March 5-10.

After his opening round victory in last month’s Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah can expect intense pressure as he aims to keep Toyota Gazoo Racing on course for the drivers’ and manufacturers’ world crowns.

Meanwhile, Sam Sunderland, who developed his desert riding skills in the UAE, faces another big test in a world-class lineup as he looks to build on his Dakar bikes triumph for Gasgas Factory Racing.

The Emirates Motorsports Organization, the rally organizers, will announce what is expected to be a bumper final entry list on Feb. 25. The Abu Dhabi Sports Council said the event’s place in the World Rally-Raid Championship was another step forward in the UAE’s sporting achievements.

“We are pleased to participate in supporting and organizing the 31st edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge,” said Aref Al-Awani, secretary-general of the ADSC, which has a long-term partnership with the EMSO to stage and promote the rally.

“We attach great importance to organizing international and community sporting events in the Al-Dhafra region, and value the role of the rally in shedding light on the features of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and its desert terrain.”

Al-Attiyah’s path to a fourth triumph in the event is under threat from some of the world’s top drivers, including Stephane Peterhansel, who is targeting a record seventh cars victory in the event with Team Audi Sport.

Joining the battle are Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Overdrive Racing), Poland’s Jakub Przygonski and Russia’s Denis Rotov Denis (X-raid MINI JCW Team) and 2018 winner in Abu Dhabi, Martin Prokop (Benzina Orlen Team).

While Bahrain Raid Xtreme have yet to confirm their driver lineup after Sebastien Loeb’s second place Dakar finish, they will certainly add to the intensity of the contest.

The tussle for supremacy on four wheels will be matched by the one on two wheels, as Sunderland looks to add to his Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge victories in 2017 and 2019.

Austrian star Matthias Walkner had already clinched the 2021 FIM world title before winning in Abu Dhabi last year, and he returns to the Al-Dhafra dunes to spearhead another big assault by Red Bull KTM Factory Racing.

Teammates Toby Price, the 2016 winner in Abu Dhabi, and last year’s Dakar champion Kevin Benavides, are among the other big threats to Sunderland in the chase for the Rally GP title.

Botswana rider Ross Branch, winner of last year’s Rally Kazakhstan, goes into action with fellow Hero Motorsports Team Rally riders Joaquim Rodrigues and Franco Caimi.

Also in contention is Luciano Benavides, runner-up to Sunderland in Abu Dhabi in 2019, who teams up with Husqvarna Factory Racing’s American rider, Skyler Howes.

On March 6, the rally heads out from Abu Dhabi across the Al-Dhafra region with five competitive stages of 264 km, 318 km, 270 km, 257 km and 217 km in a total route of 1,917 km.


Young Saudi pool player wins against American professional star

Young Saudi pool player wins against American professional star
Updated 14 August 2022

Young Saudi pool player wins against American professional star

Young Saudi pool player wins against American professional star
  • Commentator: The big story here, all the way from Saudi Arabia, Al-Ghamdi beats Skyler, what a story at the inaugural European Open
  • Al-Ghamdi claimed a gold medal in the nine-ball competition for juniors at the West Asian Billiards and Snooker Championships in Dubai

JEDDAH: Khaled Al-Ghamdi, a Saudi junior billiards team player, scored an important victory on Aug. 10, beating American professional pool player Skyler Woodward in the European Open Championship that concluded on Sunday in Germany.

The European Open Pool Championship 2022 was a nine-ball pool tournament held from Aug. 9-14.

Matchroom Pool, the world’s leading pool promoter, tweeted a video of the match with the message: “Saudi Arabia, you’ve got a special player on your hands! 17-year-old Khalid Alghamdi comes back from 6-2 down against two-time Mosconi Cup MVP Skyler Woodward to win 9-7.”

The commentator in the footage said: “Remember, he started to play pool on a computer, and his father Omar said ‘why not try the real thing?’”

Al-Ghamdi took to the game “like a duck to the water”, and after scoring the nine balls smoothly, the commentator said: “The big story here, all the way from Saudi Arabia, Al-Ghamdi beats Skyler, what a story at the inaugural European Open.”

Al-Ghamdi’s legendary win was made all the more exciting given he had trailed 6-2 at one stage.

His achievement has opened the door to the prospect of playing against other international stars in future.

Fahad Nazer, spokesperson for the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, DC tweeted the video of Al-Ghamdi’s brilliant performance and said: “#Saudi Vision 2030 has established a sports sector in the Kingdom in record time, generating thousands of jobs & improving the quality of life for everyone living in the Kingdom in the process.

“It has also led to the development of world-class athletes in several sports.”

The tweet went viral as Arab billiards fans were left stunned by, and proud of, Al-Ghamdi’s professional performance.

Khalid Abalhassan @twiffessor said: “A big win Khalid. Keep going.”

@Muteb_albalawi said: “Sensational performance congrats Khalid.”

Al-Ghamdi started playing when he was just 10 years old, and despite his young age, he trained hard.

When he was 14, he was the first and youngest Arab — and Saudi — to win first place at the 2019 USA Pool League National in the 8-ball Singles Junior Division, in Las Vegas.

In November 2021, Al-Ghamdi claimed a gold medal in the nine-ball competition for juniors at the West Asian Billiards and Snooker Championships in Dubai.


Stoffel Vandoorne and Mercedes-EQ seal Formula E world titles 

Stoffel Vandoorne and Mercedes-EQ seal Formula E world titles 
Updated 14 August 2022

Stoffel Vandoorne and Mercedes-EQ seal Formula E world titles 

Stoffel Vandoorne and Mercedes-EQ seal Formula E world titles 
  • Vandoorne finishes second in Round 16, enough to secure title by 33 points ahead of Jaguar TCS Racing’s Mitch Evans
  • Edoardo Mortara wins in Round 16 of the ABB FIA Formula E Season 8 in Seoul to take third overall

SEOUL: Stoffel Vandoorne raced ahead to a second-place finish in the Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix to seal the 2021-22 ABB FIA Formula E Drivers’ World Championship and secure the Teams’ World Championship for his team Mercedes-EQ.

On a day that saw Edoardo Mortara of ROKiT Venturi Racing win the 100th E-Prix race in the world’s first electric motorsport World Championship, Vandoorne’s Season 8 title also marked the end of the Gen2 era in Formula E — the second iteration of electric racecar in the series.

The Gen3 car will debut next season as the fastest, lightest, most powerful and most efficient electric racecar ever built.

Formula E’s first venture into the South Korean capital of Seoul saw Vandoorne navigate a Lap 1 melee and keep it clean throughout the rest of the race to bring the Silver Arrow 02 home in second place.

Only Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) had any chance of catching Vandoorne going into the race. But Vandoorne’s eighth podium of the season — more than any other driver — proved to be enough to see him take a maiden Drivers’ crown and hand Mercedes-EQ back-to-back Drivers’ and Teams’ titles on the German marque’s Formula E swansong.

“World champions, wow,” said Vandoorne. “It’s just the best feeling ever. Just look at the season we’ve had, the consistency and the car has been amazing, and the team has done an incredible job. I think every single one of us deserves it. What we’ve accomplished is something special.

“Mitch has pushed me all the way along, the same with Edo, they were there all the time. It was really about the consistency in the end. They all have more wins than me, but I have the most podiums, I think. It was difficult to focus because the pace at the end was so high. I knew Jake had a five-second penalty, so I had to stay close enough to him to secure P2,” the Mercedes driver added.

“It was an awesome day, a lot of concentration. I am drained after this year. It has been a lot of effort. The effort I have put in and the team has put in — it is incredible.”

Mortara controlled the race once he hit the front via a stunning dummy that saw him complete a successful switchback on Julius Bär polesitter António Félix da Costa (DS TECHEETAH) on Lap 3. From there, he managed the gap and his usable energy perfectly to sign off his and Venturi’s campaign in style — the Monegasque outfit taking second in the Teams’ running ahead of DS TECHEETAH, and Mortara third in the Drivers’ Championship.

Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) drove to a strong third position, despite a tough-to-take five-second penalty following a coming-together with da Costa.

Season 8 was the biggest to date in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship with 16 races on street circuits in 10 world cities: Diriyah, Mexico City, Rome, Monaco, Berlin, Jakarta, Marrakesh, New York City, London and Seoul. Both Jakarta and Seoul were debuts for Formula E.

The dawn of the Gen3 era in Season 9 will see Formula E go bigger and further than ever before with a provisional calendar featuring 18 races in 13 cities. The season begins on Jan. 14 in Mexico City and continues in Diriyah, Hyderabad, São Paulo, Berlin, Monaco, Seoul, Jakarta, Rome and London. Three E-Prix host cities will be announced later this year, while Hyderabad and São Paulo are both debut venues.

McLaren Racing will be entering Formula E for the first time, taking over the triumphant Mercedes-EQ team, while Maserati will be making a return to motorsports for the first time in decades. ABT will also be returning to the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.


Weightlifter Al-Biladi claims three bronze medals for KSA at Islamic Solidarity Games

Weightlifter Al-Biladi claims three bronze medals for KSA at Islamic Solidarity Games
Updated 14 August 2022

Weightlifter Al-Biladi claims three bronze medals for KSA at Islamic Solidarity Games

Weightlifter Al-Biladi claims three bronze medals for KSA at Islamic Solidarity Games
  • Saudi Arabia failed to reach the final of the men’s handball competition after a 26-25 loss to Turkey

KONYA: Saudi weightlifter Abdulrahman Al-Biladi on Saturday claimed three medals at the fifth edition of the Islamic Solidarity Games, currently taking place in Turkey.

Al-Baladi’s three bronze medals came in the 73 kg division, having managed third-place finishes in the Snatch category with a lift of 130 kg, in the Clean and Jerk with a lift of 166 kg, and in the overall final standings with a total of 296 points.

With those results, the Kingdom’s medal tally at the tournament stood at 18 (one gold, 10 silvers and seven bronzes).

Meanwhile Saudi Arabia failed to reach the final of the men’s handball competition after losing 26-25 to hosts Turkey on Saturday night.

In an extremely tight semifinal, the Turkish team scored the winning goal with only five seconds left on the clock.

The Saudi team will now face Iran in the bronze medal match on Sunday evening.


Mitch Evans wins Seoul E-Prix double-header opening race to keep Formula E title hopes alive

Mitch Evans wins Seoul E-Prix double-header opening race to keep Formula E title hopes alive
Updated 14 August 2022

Mitch Evans wins Seoul E-Prix double-header opening race to keep Formula E title hopes alive

Mitch Evans wins Seoul E-Prix double-header opening race to keep Formula E title hopes alive
  • Standings leader Stoffel Vandoorne finishes fifth, reducing his lead to 21 points with a maximum 29 points available in the final race
  • Lucas di Grassi makes history with third place finish to become the first Formula E driver to surpass 1,000 points

SEOUL: Mitch Evans produced under pressure to keep his title chances alive and slice into Stoffel Vandoorne’s points advantage as the Kiwi jumped from third on the grid to win the 2022 Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix in style on Saturday.

Championship leader Vandoorne finished fifth to see his lead now reduced to 21 points with Evans second, meaning Sunday’s final race of the season will determine the winner of this year’s championship.

On Saturday, Evans of Jaguar TCS Racing driver dispatched Julius Bär polesitter Oliver Rowland (Mahindra Racing) off the line as the Brit struggled to get away cleanly over greasy road markings, the circuit still soaked from an earlier downpour. Evans then rounded Lucas di Grassi (ROKiT Venturi Racing) with a stealthy move into Turn 3 on the opening lap and did not look back.

It was an incident-packed opening lap as a multi-car shunt at the penultimate corner caused a 45-minute red flag stoppage. Sébastien Buemi, Oliver Askew, André Lotterer, Dan Ticktum, Oliver Turvey, Nick Cassidy, Norman Nato and Nyck de Vries were all caught out by standing water to hit the wall. There was an audible gasp from the stadium crowd as they saw de Vries’ Silver Arrow 02 undercut Buemi’s Nissan, which came to rest on top of the Dutchman’s car. Thankfully, there were no injuries.

After the restart, it was a relatively serene Saturday afternoon for Evans, who eased to a comfortable three-second gap for much of the race ahead of Rowland. The Brit was happy to seal his first podium finish of the season and his first with Mahindra.

After his win, Evans said: “That was the plan (to keep the Championship race alive). It has been a lot of work since London to make sure we can make this result possible. This morning was tricky. We didn’t quite have the pace, but then the rain came at the right time, I qualified at the front and had a good start.

“The race was really hard to manage, the conditions change all the time, so thanks to the team for guiding me through. This is what we needed, we don’t give up, so we go to tomorrow and keep fighting. Can I do the double? That’s the plan. I’ve done it before. Let’s do it again.”

Meanwhile, Rowland’s future Mahindra teammate, di Grassi, earned his 39th podium in third place and became the first driver in Formula E to surpass 1,000 points. On Sunday, he is set to become the only driver in the championship to have competed in all 100 E-Prix.

Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) steered to the TAG Heuer Fastest Lap and fourth place, while Vandoorne kept the points ticking over with fifth place. Jean-Éric Vergne (DS TECHEETAH) had a mathematical chance of winning the championship going into the race, but his sixth-place finish ends his unlikely title run. Pascal Wehrlein (TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team), Robin Frijns (Envision Racing), António Félix da Costa (DS TECHEETAH) and Cassidy (Envision Racing) rounded out the points-paying positions.

The Drivers’ World Championship will be decided in the final race of the season with Vandoorne and Evans battling for Season 8 supremacy.

Mercedes-EQ sit atop the Teams’ World Championship with 301 points, but ROKiT Venturi Racing can still overhaul the German manufacturer.

The inaugural race in Seoul today will be followed tomorrow by Round 16, the final race in the biggest-ever ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season of 16 races in 10 world cities.

The second race in the Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix will also be the 100th E-Prix in Formula E history and will mark the end of the Gen2 race car era, ahead of an all-new Gen3 race car debuting next season.


Vampire Esports soar to PUBG MOBILE World Invitational triumph at Gamers8 in Riyadh

Vampire Esports soar to PUBG MOBILE World Invitational triumph at Gamers8 in Riyadh
Updated 14 August 2022

Vampire Esports soar to PUBG MOBILE World Invitational triumph at Gamers8 in Riyadh

Vampire Esports soar to PUBG MOBILE World Invitational triumph at Gamers8 in Riyadh
  • The three-day main tournament saw the Thai team claim $500,000 of the $2m prize pool
  • The full tournament concludes next week with $1m Afterparty Showdown

RIYADH: Gamers8 on Saturday night saw Vampire Esports crowned PUBG MOBILE World Invitational (PMWI) champions at Boulevard Riyadh City.

The team from Thailand claimed $500,000 of the total $2 million prize pool after scoring 220 points. That points total was enough to edge out homegrown heroes Team Falcons from Saudi Arabia, who scored 197 points, into second place.

Team Falcons’ exploits earned them $300,000, while the 180 points scored by Stalwart Esports, from Mongolia, claimed third spot and $160,000. The MVP award, and with it $10,000, also went to Stalwart Esports — with star performer Action leading the individual rankings from day one of the tournament on Thursday right up until Saturday’s conclusion.

But the team of the tournament was far and away Vampire Esports, who celebrated their success by collectively — and delightedly — hoisting the spectacular PMWI Gamers8 trophy high into the air at the purpose-built arena at Boulevard Riyadh City.

Vampire Esports Leader Rvenclaw said: “This is the greatest achievement of our lives. It was our team goal to come here and win, and we are so delighted to have done so. We really encouraged each other to win.”

“The Esports Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City is a great venue and the fans created a great atmosphere. It was a great honor to be here in Riyadh and we have really enjoyed our time in Saudi Arabia — it is a beautiful country,” he added. “We have really enjoyed the culture here; the buildings are beautiful, the food has been awesome, and the people have been very welcoming. We will save the money that we have earned from winning the tournament in our bank accounts.”

Asked if the team had a message for the young gamers of Saudi Arabia who wish to follow in their footsteps, Rvenclaw said: “If you want to be a professional esports player, you must have the self-discipline to be able to study, practice and do your homework. When you see the best players in the world right now, they all have self-discipline and keep on improving. This is what makes you win and makes money for you and your family!”

The second annual PMWI tournament marks the fifth and final phase of the historic Professional Esports calendar at Gamers8, which is being organized by the Saudi Esports Federation.

Split into two parts, the main tournament welcomed 17 regional champions and one homegrown representative. The Afterparty Showdown — the second week’s tournament taking place from Aug. 18-20 — will see teams competing for the remaining $1 million on offer.

The Afterparty Showdown line-up will comprise the top five teams from the first week – the aforementioned Vampire Esports, Team Falcons, and Stalwart Esports, as well as Nigma Galaxy, who hail from the UAE and India, and DWG Kia from South Korea — alongside six teams chosen from different regions, and one given a special invitation to compete.

Faisal bin Hamran, head of esports at the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “The PUBG MOBILE World Invitational at Gamers8 witnessed high enthusiasm from the participating teams, the fans present at the Esports Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City, and the tournament followers on Gamers8 channels being broadcast live in eight languages.

“This is our fifth tournament of the Gamers8 season, and the PMWI only adds to the glittering roster of elite action that we have been delighted — and privileged — to have witnessed this summer. I congratulate all the participating teams, especially those who qualified for the Afterparty Showdown that will be held next week.”