Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi seals 2nd FIA World Cup win at Dubai Baja

Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi seals 2nd FIA World Cup win at Dubai Baja
Yazeed Al-Rajhi and co-driver Dirk von Zitziwitz celebrate winning the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas Drivers’ Championship. (Photo/Yazeed Racing)
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Updated 06 December 2022

Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi seals 2nd FIA World Cup win at Dubai Baja

Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi seals 2nd FIA World Cup win at Dubai Baja
  • A season that started with podium at Dakar Rally ends with victory over closest challenger Miroslav Zapletal
  • The Saudi champion thanked co-drivers Michael Orr and Dirk von Zitziwitz for their outstanding work

DUBAI: Saudi rally driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi has been crowned champion of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas Drivers’ Championship for the second time in his career at the two-day Dubai International Baja.

Al-Rajhi managed to overcome Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal, who was his closest challenger throughout the season, with the gap between the two only 10 points before the start of the Dubai Baja.

“I dedicate my second historical victory of the World Cup title to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” said Al-Rajhi.

“I also thank HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal and HRH Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal for their continuous support, and I thank the great Saudi people and my fans from all over the world. I am very proud to be the first Saudi to win this world title twice in the history of the World Cup for Cross Country Bajas.”

The Saudi champion produced a season of landmarks, the first of which was winning a historical podium at the Dakar Rally in Saudi in the W2RC Championship. He accomplished that alongside Irish navigator Michael Orr onboard the Toyota Hilux, before heading out on the journey to defend the world title in the World Cup for Cross-Country Rally Championships, which is supervised by the International Automobile Federation.

In the course of eight rounds between Europe and the Middle East, Al-Rajhi’s defense of his world title began in the freezing conditions of the Russian Baja and ended in Dubai’s hot desert climate.

Al-Rajhi and his co-drivers faced several challenges throughout the season, and the Saudi champion thanked Michael Orr and Dirk von Zitziwitz for their outstanding work, as well as his official partner Abdul Latif Jameel — the distributor of Toyota Motor Corporation products in Saudi Arabia — for their unlimited support at the international and regional rallies.


Victory for Pascal Werhlein and Porsche on day one of Diriyah E-Prix

Pascal Wehrlein of the TAG Heuer Porsche team stormed from ninth to win the first of two races at the Diriyah E-Prix
Pascal Wehrlein of the TAG Heuer Porsche team stormed from ninth to win the first of two races at the Diriyah E-Prix
Updated 28 January 2023

Victory for Pascal Werhlein and Porsche on day one of Diriyah E-Prix

Pascal Wehrlein of the TAG Heuer Porsche team stormed from ninth to win the first of two races at the Diriyah E-Prix
  • Wehrlein looked the quickest on the track as he picked his way through the points-paying positions to the front of the pack

DIRIYAH: Pascal Wehrlein of the TAG Heuer Porsche team stormed from ninth to win the first of two races at the Diriyah E-Prix, with standings leader Jake Dennis of Avalanche Andretti Formula E following home in second after starting in 11th.

Wehrlein looked the quickest on the track as he picked his way through the points-paying positions to the front of the pack.

The move for the lead came on lap 30 at turn 16, with Sam Bird in the Jaguar TCS Racing car unable to hold back Wehrlein’s 99X Electric Gen3.

Both driver and car looked dominant for a second straight race. It was an emotional win for the 28-year-old, who once again credited his team with a monumental amount of work off-track to get things so right on it.

Jake Dennis in the Porsche-powered Avalanche Andretti took the fight all the way to the line with his factory Porsche counterpart from all the way back in 11th on the grid, but he couldn't find a way beyond Wehrlein - who sealed his second Formula E win on his 50th start.

The result was a reversal of the one-two we saw two weeks ago in the 2023 Hankook Mexico City E-Prix - and both TAG Heuer Porsche and Avalanche Andretti look to have thrown down the challenge to the rest of the field as the GEN3 development race continues at pace.

Sam Bird was overjoyed to make the podium for the first time since winning in New York City in Season 7 - calling it a "mini victory" for himself and Jaguar after a tough Season 8 for the Brit - the only season he has failed to claim Formula E silverware.

Sebastian Buemi started in pole position and finished in fourth, his best finish since the Season 6 finale in Berlin.

NEOM McLaren Formula E Team’s René Rast started fifth and ended fifth following a long battle in middle of the points-paying positions. He also sealed the TAG Heuer Fastest Lap.

Nick Cassidy made it two Envision Racing cars in the top six. Jean-Éric Vergne fought from 12th to the points for DS PENSKE, winding up just ahead of Jake Hughes in the sister McLaren. André Lotterer and Mitch Evans rounded out the top 10 - the latter slipping from sixth on the grid.

That leaves Dennis as standings leader at just a point over Werhlein - 44 to 43 points - while Avalanche Andretti retain their Teams' advantage over TAG Heuer Porsche, 58 to 49 points, with Envision Racing third.

Formula E’s return to Diriyah, a historical and cultural destination in Saudi Arabia, marks a groundbreaking move as it continues to prioritise sustainability and shift the paradigm in the sports industry.


Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG

Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG
Updated 27 January 2023

Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG

Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG
  • Navas has been linked with a move after losing his starting position to Gianluigi Donnarumma
  • “Keylor is a great competitor," Galtier said

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier is unsure if he can retain goalkeeper Keylor Navas amid reported interest from Premier League club Nottingham Forest.
With the January transfer window closing soon, the 36-year-old Navas has been linked with a move after losing his starting position to Italy’s European Championship-winning goalie Gianluigi Donnarumma. Navas only plays in the French Cup.
“Keylor is a great competitor. He has been exemplary in terms of his work since the start of the season. I have total faith in him,” Galtier said Friday. “But you have to consider what he’s feeling and the directors and president are attentive to his needs.”
French sports daily L’Equipe’s website reported Friday that the Costa Rica international has agreed to terms with Forest.
Galtier suggested he would not try to block a move.
“Because of the person he is and his career, we must respect him and listen to him,” he said.
Navas joined PSG in 2019 from Real Madrid, where he won the Champions League three times, and has played 108 games for the French champions. He was outstanding during the 2020-21 season, when he stood out with remarkable performances in the Champions League against Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
Navas has played 110 times for Costa Rica.


Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading

Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading
Updated 27 January 2023

Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading

Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading
  • Sancho has struggled to reach peak form since moving from Borussia Dortmund
  • Sancho last played for United in October's 1-1 draw at Chelsea and was left out of England's World Cup squad

LONDON: Erik ten Hag is set to end Jadon Sancho’s Manchester United exile as the England forward eyes his first appearance in 14 weeks against Reading in the FA Cup fourth round.
Sancho has struggled to reach peak form since moving from Borussia Dortmund and Ten Hag claimed he was not mentally or physically ready to feature for United earlier this season.
The 22-year-old was sent to do an individual fitness program in the Netherlands rather than travel to the squad’s training camp in Spain during the World Cup last year.
But Sancho resumed group training last Tuesday having returned to Carrington earlier in January and could be involved when second tier Reading visit Old Trafford on Saturday.
“He is training with the team and we will see,” Ten Hag told reporters on Friday.
“So, he’s improving, he’s making steps and we will make the decision after training.”
Sancho last played for United in October’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea and was left out of England’s World Cup squad.
He has failed to justify the hype that saw him hailed as one of Europe’s brightest young stars when he moved to United in 2021.
“I said he’s on the way back, he’s making steps. He’s back in team training and now we have to see when he’s ready to go back into the games,” Ten Hag said.
United have flourished in Sancho’s absence, climbing into the Premier League’s top four and advancing in both domestic cup competitions.
Chasing the club’s first major trophy since 2017, United won 3-0 at Nottingham Forest in the League Cup semifinal first leg on Wednesday.
That result means Ten Hag could rest key players in next week’s second leg, but the Dutchman will also be tempted to rotate against a Reading side managed by former United midfielder Paul Ince.
“Football is never decided on paper, we have to be ready for every game, every opponent will be tough and especially in the cup,” Ten Hag said.
“That is, for them, a perfect chance. We have to be aware of that. We have to be on the front foot, fully focused and full of energy.
“I think tomorrow we will have a strong selection for this game.”


Jaguar TCS chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers

Jaguar TCS chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers
Updated 27 January 2023

Jaguar TCS chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers

Jaguar TCS chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers
  • Team Principal James Barclay talks exclusively to Arab News about the early stages of Season 9, strength of the championship and ‘formidable’ Diriyah track

For a “startup,” Formula E is not doing badly at all.

Friday and Saturday will see the second and third rounds of Season 9 at the Diriyah E-Prix night-time double-header, and James Barclay, team principal of Jaguar TCS Racing, believes few other sports can match the pace, metaphorical and literal, the sport has set since its inception.

“I think the first thing to say is Formula E is only 8 years old,” he said. “That’s the amazing thing. It’s still a startup by definition, which is exciting to think about. We’ve come a long way in eight years. It’s one of the fastest forms of motorsport in terms of growth in the world, which is incredibly exciting to see. We have an incredible lineup of teams and manufacturers, which in single-seater racing is unrivaled.”

The first race of the season in Mexico City saw the launch of Formula E’s Gen3 car — the all-electric series’ fastest and most efficient vehicle yet.

“I think the first race has been something we’ve been anticipating for a while, so it’s nice to have done it,” Barclays said.

“It’s fine when you’re developing and testing, but there’s nothing like competition to really start to see where things are at. We’ve had mixed fortunes but also a lot of positives to take out of it. Other than one other manufacturer, Porsche, we had more cars in the top 10,” he added, attributing the achievement to Jaguar’s efficiency.

This season, the Jaguar line-up is made up of Mitch Evans from New Zealand and Sam Bird of Britain. The team performed solidly in Mexico City and are now sixth in the standing with four points.

Barclay says that whether it’s getting to grips with new tires or other emerging factors, teams will need some time to adjust in the coming weeks.

“I think what we’ll see in the first four or five races this year is potentially a real swing of performance and form,” he said. “There are some very competitive teams and drivers, which are out of position, us included. Those teams who got it right last week, do they know the reasons why they got it right? And will they get it right this week?

“We need to let that play out over the first four or five races.”

Teams, including Barclay’s own Jaguar, are keeping their cards close to their chests in the early rounds of the season.

“Because it’s a brand-new car, people are still getting used to overtaking with it,” he said. “You didn’t want to take too many risks in the first race of the season because you want to get a full race under your belt; you want to get the mileage. So, you saw people being a little bit cautious and maybe not having the big moves that we’ve seen in Formula E in the past. That will come.”

Friday night will see the first of the two Diriyah races taking place under the floodlights, and the Jaguar boss is happy to be back in Riyadh.

“It’s fantastic to be back here,” Barclay said. “What we love about this race is, firstly, the location in the historic part of Diriyah. It’s a really challenging circuit. It’s a formidable track. The drivers enjoy it, which is always a positive sign.

“Sector one and sector two are incredibly technical and fast. You have to be very accurate. A small mistake has a big penalty. It’s like threading the eye of the needle, basically. There’s no room for error. And it’s been a roller coaster down that first section.

“Add to that the fact that this is the night race, our only night race to Canada. And I think that adds something really special to it.”

Barclay says the relevance of Formula E continues to rise as the world shifts toward electrical mobility.

“Regulation is driving that,” he said. “If you look at the majority of car manufacturers, they make clear statements, so for us, we made a statement that from 2025, Jaguar would become an all-electric model luxury car company.”

Daimler and Volkswagen have also made similar announcements.

“In summary, most manufacturers here made a clear statement toward becoming all-electric car companies at different points in time. In our case, this will happen very soon, but all within the next 10 years, which is incredibly exciting,” Barclay said.

Barclay calls Formula One “the pinnacle” of internal combustion engine racing and says Formula E plays a similar role in electric racing.

“What starts to happen in the future, beyond 2030, when in many markets, you can’t sell ICE engines, no one knows,” he said. “But the reality is, I think Formula E is incredibly well placed if you look at the main automotive market, and the shift toward electric mobility, or the uptake of electric cars. So we see Formula E being a positive space going forward in terms of what’s at the core of a championship.”

Beyond the environmental aspects, Formula E currently has a structure that other motorsports cannot match.

“We don’t have any driver that brings budget to racing Formula E. Everyone has a full professional employed by the team,” Barclay said. “I can’t think of any other category where that happens. It doesn’t happen in Formula One. It doesn’t happen in IndyCar. It doesn’t happen in NASCAR. Basically, I think it’s the most perfect professional driver lineup in the world and one that has so much strength in depth.”

Add to that an expanding calendar that last year saw a new race in Jakarta and this year has added Sao Paolo, Cape Town and Hyderabad, and the popularity of Formula E could be about to rise even further.

“I come back to that point: We’re a startup sport,” said Barclay. “I think what is incredible is if you look at the short space of time, we just came back from Mexico City where we had just under 60,000 people. The stadium was absolutely full, sold out, all tickets in the grandstand, in hospitality sold. In Jakarta, we had 60,000 people last year.

“So genuinely, wherever we are, we’re sold out.”


WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown

WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown
Updated 27 January 2023

WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown

WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA: This weekend sees colossal battles inside the WWE ring as Royal Rumble makes its entrance for 2023 with championships on the line and more than 60 WWE superstars set to face off on Sunday, Jan 28 January.

In the main event encounters, this year’s Royal Rumble will raise the stakes higher than ever, with the winner of both the male and female headline matches guaranteed a World Championship match at WrestleMania 39 in Hollywood in April.

In the 30-man Royal Rumble contest, superstars from across eras, including Drew McIntyre, Cody Rhodes, Rey Mysterio, Sheamus, and current United States champion Austin Theory, will battle it out for the ultimate spot as the last wrestler standing.

(WWE)

Meanwhile, the 30-woman Royal Rumble match will see superstars, including Liv Morgan and Rhea Ripley, enter the ring for a chance to earn a title matchup on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

In the championship matches, undisputed WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns will face off with Kevin Owens following their high-profile bouts to start off the year, with Reigns aiming to maintain his ongoing dominance over the WWE universe.

Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair will also have her eyes set on retaining her title, as she stands toe-to-toe with Alexa Bliss in the title showdown on Saturday evening.

WWE fans in the Middle East can catch the encounters at Royal Rumble from 4 a.m. KSA on Sunday, live on Shahid.