Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi sets sights on second Baja Dubai win

Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi sets sights on second Baja Dubai win
Saudi's Yazeed Al-Rajhi is targeting a second win at Baja Dubai. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 November 2023
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Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi sets sights on second Baja Dubai win

Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi sets sights on second Baja Dubai win
  • The rally world champion will drive alongside German navigator Timo Gottschalk

DUBAI: Saudi rally driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi, the reigning World Cup champion, has set his sights on more success in the seventh and final round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas at Baja Dubai.

The three-day event is organized by the International Automobile Federation and runs until Nov. 12.

It marks Al-Rajhi’s third participation in Baja Dubai, this time alongside his German navigator Timo Gottschalk. Baja Dubai is renowned for its challenging desert rally tracks, and Al-Rajhi clinched the title in 2021 driving a Toyota Hilux. He also secured first place in the T1 Plus category.

“We conducted private tests for our car yesterday, and we are ready and excited to tackle Baja Dubai in its new edition after the preparations and training we underwent throughout the season,” Al-Rajhi said. “We anticipate a new challenge and fresh competition in the sands of Qudra, just like last year. We are confident in our abilities and our perfect performance, as always, as we strive to win the Baja Dubai title for the second time.”

Baja Dubai consists of two competitive stages on Saturday and Sunday preceded by a brief ceremonial stage, covering only 2 km on Friday near the rally headquarters at Dubai Festival City Mall. This event provides fans an opportunity to witness the action up close before the competition starts over the weekend.

The first stage will commence on Saturday stretching across the challenging terrains of the Qudra desert, featuring soft sands and sand dunes, posing real challenges to the drivers, who will test their skills in changing conditions over a timed distance of 168.4 km.

On Sunday, the competition will continue for the completion of the second stage, where drivers will navigate through the Qudra desert covering a distance of 169.05 km, all under strict timing conditions.

Despite a challenging start to the season due to an injury that prevented his participation in the first two rounds (Baja Hail and Baja Qatar) and the inability to secure crucial points for defending his title, Al-Rajhi has made a strong comeback, delivering outstanding performances and results in the subsequent rounds.

He is now poised to secure the runner-up position in the World Cup final standings this weekend.

Al-Rajhi will be driving the new Toyota Hilux, unveiled for the 2024 season during the recent Argentina round in the W2RC. This car will be used for the fifth edition of the Saudi Dakar Rally and other global rally competitions next year.

“I express my sincere thanks and gratitude to our official partner, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors, for their continuous and generous support of my rally career in international, regional and local sports events,” he said. “We look forward to a bright future and renewed successes, and we reiterate our deep gratitude to our sponsor for their continuous support and the confidence they place in us.”

The world champion’s navigator, Timo Gottschalk, commenting on his preparations for Baja Dubai, said: “This will be the first time I accompany my exceptional teammate Yazeed Al-Rajhi in Dubai. I had a wonderful experience as a navigator with another colleague in the past two years. I am extremely excited and eagerly look forward to this unique experience. We will do our utmost to achieve an honorable victory this weekend.”


Gulf 12 Hours unveils strong GT3 roster for 2023 showdown in Abu Dhabi

Gulf 12 Hours unveils strong GT3 roster for 2023 showdown in Abu Dhabi
Updated 08 December 2023
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Gulf 12 Hours unveils strong GT3 roster for 2023 showdown in Abu Dhabi

Gulf 12 Hours unveils strong GT3 roster for 2023 showdown in Abu Dhabi
  • 13th edition of the regional endurance classic heads to Yas Marina Circuit with 28 GT3 cars set to race
  • MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi to race in Abu Dhabi with championship-deciding finales on the cards this weekend

ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi is gearing up for the return of the Middle East’s premier endurance race, the prestigious Lenovo Gulf 12 Hours championship, at Yas Marina Circuit this weekend.

The 13th edition of the regional classic will feature the strongest lineup yet, with 28 GT3 cars confirmed for multiple championship deciders.

Starting on Saturday, Dec. 9, the event will see racing legend Valentino Rossi in action as the Italian star aims to wrap up his season with his first Lenovo Gulf 12 Hours title.

Rossi, alongside his teammates Nick Yelloy and Dries Vanthoor, is taking the battle for the championship to 2022 champions AF Corse and their powerful trio of Ferrari 296 GTS’, piloted by an impressive crew featuring American duo Jean Claude Saada and Conrad Grunewald.

The GT cars hunting for silverware in Abu Dhabi represent a world-class selection of constructors as Audi, Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, BMW and Porsche feature in the AM, ProAM, and Pro categories. Entrants will be competing for the three coveted titles in the ultimate round of the Intercontinental GT powered by Pirelli, including the Independent Cup honors.

Fans can expect to see familiar favorites and new faces, with 10 of the 12 previous Gulf 12 Hours champions confirmed to race again in Abu Dhabi, including back-to-back title winners, 2 Seas Motorsport, AF Corse and Kessel Racing. The 2023 grid will also welcome Haas RT, as the team makes its ProAM debut with Audi.


Formula E confirms suppliers for Gen4 car to debut in season 13

Formula E confirms suppliers for Gen4 car to debut in season 13
Updated 07 December 2023
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Formula E confirms suppliers for Gen4 car to debut in season 13

Formula E confirms suppliers for Gen4 car to debut in season 13
  • Season 9 saw the introduction of the Gen3 car, and now the new Gen4 will launch in the 2026-2027 championship

DUBAI: The FIA has confirmed its choice of suppliers for the Gen4 race car set to debut in season 13 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship in 2026-2027.

Formula E is just nine seasons old, having debuted in 2014, but the on-track technology has undergone revolutionary changes.

The tender process saw Formula E and the FIA evaluate bidders on various technical specifications. As with the Gen3, the Gen4’s process saw sustainability take centerstage, covering emissions and resource consumption. Gen4 will be a net-zero race car by design, like its predecessor.

Spark Racing Technology will continue to supply the chassis to Formula E, as it has done since inception.

Podium AT, an Italian company, will become an FIA World Championship single supplier of batteries for the first time.

Marelli will provide front powertrain, extending the Italian brand’s longstanding relationship with the FIA. Bridgestone will provide the tires, marking the manufacturer’s return to an FIA World Championship for the first time in 15 years.

Season nine saw Formula E’s third great leap and the introduction to the Gen3 era, with the new car previewed and launched at the 2022 Monaco E-Prix and hitting the track for the first time in Valencia, at testing, later that year.

The Gen3 is lighter, smaller, faster and more sustainable than previous cars, and incorporates a number of cutting-edge features. It is also the most efficient race car on the planet, with almost 50 percent of the energy it expends recaptured for use through the rear and a new front powertrain, for up to 600 kilowatts total regeneration.

Before the Gen4 debut, the Gen3.5 will hit the track in seasons 11 and 12.

Activation of the front powertrain in drive and use of four-wheel drive in certain scenarios, softer compound, and bodywork tweaks are all on the table as possibilities — with lap times projected to be several seconds faster than is currently possible with Gen3.


FIA and top US university launch research study to reduce carbon footprint of UAE motorsport events

FIA and top US university launch research study to reduce carbon footprint of UAE motorsport events
Updated 07 December 2023
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FIA and top US university launch research study to reduce carbon footprint of UAE motorsport events

FIA and top US university launch research study to reduce carbon footprint of UAE motorsport events
  • World governing body and Massachusetts Institute of Technology to analyze urban mobility patterns in the UAE, focusing on events such as the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

DUBAI: World motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, is working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Senseable Dubai Lab to help reduce the carbon footprint of major UAE events including the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

While contributing to tourism and the local economy, major events have a significant impact on their host cities, challenging public transportation and increasing congestion. Improving access to these major events has become an important challenge, according to a press release issued by the FIA on Thursday.

As part of the MIT Senseable Dubai Lab — an initiative with the Dubai Future Foundation — researchers will gather data to build a picture of city-wide mobility patterns around major UAE motorsport events.

This data could then be used to suggest improvements to local mobility planning, including traffic management and public transport, ultimately reducing congestion and carbon emissions during these events.

The FIA and MIT will work with stakeholders including Formula One Management, the Yas Marina Circuit, and local governments, which will play a pivotal role in data collection efforts and future implementation.

“We are delighted to support this exciting new research project, in collaboration with MIT Senseable City Lab,” FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem said. “This comes at a moment of enormous growth for the UAE, and we look forward to joining forces with our stakeholders to make major events more eco-friendly, efficient, and enjoyable for attendees through enhanced mobility solutions.”

In the future, the FIA and MIT will share their findings and lessons learned with other cities, event organizers, and FIA members.

Umberto Fugiglando, research manager and partnerships lead at MIT Senseable City Lab, said: “We are proud to welcome the FIA to join our MIT Senseable Dubai Lab, where together with their stakeholders they will support our research on urban sustainable mobility in the UAE.

“In a region where cities are evolving very fast, we have the possibility to study urban mobility at large, and scientifically explore and anticipate future paradigms that need to be more socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable.”


Dakar Rally hits sands of Saudi Arabia for fifth time

Dakar Rally hits sands of Saudi Arabia for fifth time
Updated 06 December 2023
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Dakar Rally hits sands of Saudi Arabia for fifth time

Dakar Rally hits sands of Saudi Arabia for fifth time
  • 2024 rally is shaping up to outdo its predecessors with a new course that commences in Al-Ula and finishes in Yanbu
  • Event will host 590 participants from 187 teams in the main Dakar Rally and an additional 174 in the Dakar Classic category

JEDDAH: It is all systems go as the Dakar Rally hits the sands of Saudi Arabia for the fifth time. The 2024 rally, from January 5 to 19, is shaping up to outdo its predecessors with a new course that commences in Al-Ula, passes through the Empty Quarter, and finishes in Yanbu.

Come the New Year, the global motorsport community will turn its gaze to Saudi Arabia for an exhilarating event featuring 778 drivers and navigators from 72 nations, including a significant presence from France, Spain, and Italy. The event will host 590 participants from 187 teams in the main Dakar Rally and an additional 174 in the Dakar Classic category. Competitors are categorized into 135 Rookies, 129 Legends, and 31 contenders in the Original by Motul Challenge. Female participation is notable, with 46 women competing, 34 of whom will be in the classic category.

In Dakar Rally 2024, 434 vehicles will take part, spanning a variety of classes such as cars, motorcycles, quad bikes, trucks, and lightweight vehicles in the T3 and T4 categories, along with a special segment for classic vehicles in the Dakar Classic category. Specifically, there will be 75 cars and 46 trucks vying for victory in the 2024 rally hosted by Saudi Arabia. The motorcycle segment is robust with 137 two-wheelers and 10 quads set to race. Additionally, the rally will feature 42 T3 and 36 T4 class vehicles. The Classic category will also be well-represented with 66 classic cars and 14 trucks joining the competition.

These figures are provisional until the technical inspection of all vehicles is completed. This is a precursor to the eagerly awaited annual event, part of the W2RC World Desert Rally Championship. The event is drawing near and is organized under the governance of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM).


Al-Qubaisi sisters: ‘F1 Academy saved our careers’

Al-Qubaisi sisters: ‘F1 Academy saved our careers’
Updated 01 December 2023
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Al-Qubaisi sisters: ‘F1 Academy saved our careers’

Al-Qubaisi sisters: ‘F1 Academy saved our careers’
  • Emirati history-makers Hamda and Amna reflect on their motorsport success

ABU DHABI: They have pulled off some impressive feats individually in the world of motorsport, but if you ask Amna and Hamda Al-Qubaisi what they consider to be the highlight of their careers, the Emirati sisters choose a moment in which they both got to shine.

“I would say Red Bull Ring, the first round in Austria, where we got to share a podium,” Amna, 23, told Arab News in Abu Dhabi last weekend.

“I shared the podium with my sister. It was an amazing feeling and I hope we can do the same again,” added Hamda, 21.

The older Al-Qubaisi sister is referring to the opening round of the inaugural F1 Academy all-female series, which saw Hamda finish second in race three and Amna take third place.

Earlier that day at Red Bull Ring, Amna claimed victory in race two, but stepping on the podium together with her sister in the next race ultimately proved more special to both of them.

From a young age, the Al-Qubaisi sisters have made a habit of making history.

At 18, Amna became the first Emirati female driver to race in single-seater competitions internationally when she joined the grid in Italian Formula 4.

In 2019, she became the first Arab woman to win a Formula 4 race when she topped the podium in the F4 UAE Trophy Round at Yas Marina Circuit during the F1 Grand Prix weekend, and in 2021, Amna took things further by becoming the UAE’s first female F3 driver.

Hamda made waves when she scooped six race wins across her first two full seasons in F4 UAE — 2020-2021 — but her big moment on the international stage came in June 2021 when she became the first woman in history to make the podium in the Italian F4 Championship, placing third in the first race at Misano World Circuit. She was just 18 years old at the time.

By the end of 2022, the careers of Amna and Hamda were in jeopardy as they struggled to find the necessary funding to keep racing. But then came the announcement of the launch of F1 Academy, an all-female racing series aimed at developing and preparing young female drivers to progress to higher levels of competition.

Both sisters were signed by Dutch team MP Motorsport for the inaugural season, which saw Hamda finish third in the F1 Academy championship and Amna secure P6.

“Honestly, it saved my career,” said Amna of the F1-supported initiative.

“I was about to stop racing and they saved my career by having the budget really low and the opportunity to race on extraordinary tracks. So a big thank you to Susie Wolff for creating the F1 Academy and giving me the opportunity to be back racing again.”

Hamda, who took four race victories in the inaugural championship, was also concerned either she or Amna would have to drop out of competing.

“For me, I think F1 Academy also saved my career. We were really low on budget and it was at a point we were choosing between us, who would race and who would stop,” said Hamda.

“So it wasn’t really a nice feeling and I’m happy we’re able to share the track together, as teammates as well, representing our country. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Since the start of their careers, Amna and Hamda had been competing in mixed competitions, side by side with male drivers, so switching their focus to an all-female series could have been considered a risky move. But Hamda feels her level has only gone higher, and her top-five finish in the F4 UAE Trophy Round with Yas Heat Racing in Abu Dhabi last weekend, which featured a competitive mixed grid, has helped her prove her point.

“F1 Academy has done great, I performed really well there, and it hasn’t done anything (negative) to the level I’m at,” said Hamda.

“Being an all-female series, people thought it would bring my level down but I’m here (at Yas Marina Circuit) competing in a mixed grid and I’m still at the top. So it goes to show how strong the grid was and how females can really perform in this category.”

But can an all-female series really be the right stepping stone for women looking to make it to Formula 1?

“Yes, I think for sure,” replied Hamda. “Because I’ve been through a lot of championships and to be honest F1 Academy has been one of the most competitive championships I’ve raced at. Considering I’ve raced on a 40-plus-car grid in F4 Italia, in F4 UAE, so to be in F1 Academy 15-car grid but still so competitive, it’s a really high level and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Hamda’s F1 Academy campaign was all the more impressive considering she had surgery for a broken wrist just six weeks before the season started. The doctors told her she would need four months to recover but Hamda somehow managed to make it in time for pre-season testing in Barcelona and she stood on top of the podium, winning a race in Valencia, just 75 days after going under the knife.

“At one point I was already in the fight for the lead of the championship,” said Hamda, reflecting on her season. “So for me it was amazing. I was able to perform really well at such a high level; especially as an Emirati woman in the sport, I showed what we’re capable of and I’m sure a lot of women here in the region can do the same.”

Arguably the fastest sister act in all of motorsport, the Al-Qubaisis have successfully navigated what could have been a very tricky dynamic as siblings, teammates and competitors.

“In the beginning it was quite tough,” admitted Amna. “I mean, in karting we used to take each other out. But I think we’ve matured and in single-seaters we really have an advantage to everyone else, being sisters. We really help each other on track and off track. So it’s really good to have a teammate that’s your sister.”

Hamda explained their nuanced approach to how they manage races that bring them mixed fortunes.

“It happened a few times, when I’m mad and she’s happy, she tries not to be as happy, to not make me feel worse, and vice versa,” said Hamda. “But at the same time we celebrate each other’s wins despite what happens to each other. So if she won I’ll be there for her, I’ll celebrate no matter what happens to me.”

Still only 21, Hamda walked away from her first season in F1 Academy with many lessons learned.

“For sure it’s more about dealing with the pressure, trying to stay focused no matter what and forget about people or outsiders, whatever they have to say. I made a few mistakes on my side, driving-wise, but then again, I can’t look at the people who criticize me and I have to forget it and think tomorrow’s a new day, start fresh and learn from my mistakes,” she said.

“That’s one thing I struggled with; I would always let the past haunt me but I’ve learned a lot this season. I’ve learned to trust the process and see how things go.”