Al-Rajhi heads massive field into Riyadh Rally on Thursday

Mishal Alghuneim and Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi. (Photo/ Supplied)
Updated 27 November 2019

Al-Rajhi heads massive field into Riyadh Rally on Thursday

RIYADH: Another stunning entry of 47 cars, 14 NUTVs, one truck, 24 motorcycles and 21 quads will line up at the start of the Riyadh Rally, the fourth round of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, which starts in Ad Diriyah on Thursday afternoon.

 Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi heads the car field in his Toyota Hilux, the winner of the recent AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally keen to hunt down current series leader Yasir Seaidan. The latter has a four-point series lead and has switched from a MINI All4 Racing to one of X-raid’s latest MINI JCW Buggies for the two days of desert action around Rumah and the Saad National Park.

While the two Saudi adversaries lock horns in the fight for the inaugural Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship title, competition will come from French legend Stéphane Peterhansel in a second X-raid Buggy, Essa Al-Dossari in an ED Racing Nissan Navara and the experienced Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal in his self-designed Ford F-150 Evo.

 Saudi drivers dominate the car category in various Toyota and Nissan derivatives, while Ahmed Al-Shegawi tops the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles and faces competition from the likes of Salman Al-Shammeri, Yousef Al-Suwaidi and Muteb Al-Shammeri.

 Saleh Al-Saif will be hoping to prevail in the T3 category with his Can-Am Maverick X3, while Yousef Al-Dhaif, Majed Al-Tuwaijri and Fahad Al-Naim top the 14-strong NUTV section.

HIGHLIGHT

  • An interesting name appearing on the entry list in the Kingdom for the first time is that of Dutch navigator Wouter Rosegaar (the former co-driver for Erik van Loon), who sits alongside the talented young Saudi driver Saleh Al-Abdulaali in a powerful T1 Hummer.

Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb continue their pre-Dakar preparations in a Mercedes truck entered in the T4 category.

An interesting name appearing on the entry list in the Kingdom for the first time is that of Dutch navigator Wouter Rosegaar (the former co-driver for Erik van Loon), who sits alongside the talented young Saudi driver Saleh Al-Abdulaali in a powerful T1 Hummer.

 KTM rider Mishal Alghuneim has already confirmed his entry into January’s Dakar Rally and Saudi Arabia’s leading rider tops the 24-strong motorcycle category. Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Balooshi returns to Saudi action after missing the third round of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship and is joined by his brother Sultan Al-Balooshi, Emirati Abdullah bin Dakhan and four additional UAE riders. Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Shatti is also present.

Yamaha’s Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi will also tackle his first Dakar at the start of 2020 and the current leader of the quad category in the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship heads a field of 21 riders that also includes Walid Al-Shegawi and Abdulaziz Al-Shayban.

 The event is organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and supervision of former FIA Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab.

 It runs with the support of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, the General Sport Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.

 The official ceremonial start will take place on Thursday in Diriyah from 15:40hrs and precedes the opening 4km Toyota Super Special stage, starting at 15:45hrs.

 

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Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought

Updated 28 January 2020

Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought

  • Barty aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open
  • She won her first title on home soil in Adelaide in the lead-up to this season’s first major

MELBOURNE, Australia: Top-ranked Ash Barty is a step closer to ending a long drought for Aussies at the national championship.
Barty saved set points in the 11th game and another in the tiebreaker before seizing the momentum against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in a 7-6 (6), 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena. She next faces No. 14 Sofia Kenin, who reached the semifinals at a major for the first time with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 78-ranked Ons Jabeur.
Barty fended off eight of the nine break-point chances she faced in the first set before finally getting the upper hand when she won a 22-shot rally, defending for much of it just to stay in the point, at 3-2 in the tiebreaker.
After clinching the first set in 69 minutes, she went on a roll to take a 4-0 lead in the second and take all the momentum away from Kvitova, who beat Barty here at the same stage last year before losing the final to Naomi Osaka.
Barty rebounded from that to win her first major title at the French Open, where she beat Kenin in the fourth round. Until she arrived in Australia, Kenin’s run at Roland Garros — which included a third-round upset over Serena Williams — was her best at a Grand Slam.
There’s a lot of local expectation riding on Barty, who is aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open. The first major of the decade may see the end of the 42-year wait, and an Australian man hasn’t won since 1976. Barty is already the first Australian woman since 1984 to reach the semifinals of the home Open.
Barty doesn’t expect to feel the pressure. She won her first title on home soil in Adelaide in the lead-up to this season’s first major.
“I’m not going to have anything but a smile on my face when I walk out onto this court,” Barty said of her next match.
Kenin and Jabeur were both into the quarterfinals for the first time at a major.
For Kenin, who was born in Moscow but moved to the United States as a baby and grew up in Florida, the degree of difficulty will only increase.
“I’m in the semis,” she said, when asked for her preference of semifinal rival. “Anyone I play, they’re playing really well.”
Kenin is playing her best tennis, too. Her best previous run at Melbourne Park ended in the second round, when she lost to Simona Halep last year.
She finished last year ranked 14th, and could match Barty in one category: they were tied for most hard-court wins on the women’s tour last year with 38 wins each.
Kenin’s run here included a comeback win in the third round against 15-year-old Coco Gauff, when she made only nine unforced errors across the second and third sets.
In the second set against Jabeur, she saved three break points in a long sixth game, then broke serve in the seventh game to set up the win.
“It was a tough moment,” Kenin said. “I didn’t know it was 10 minutes (but) it was pretty long, the game. After that I got my momentum.”
Jabeur, a 25-year-old Tunisian, was the first Arab woman to make it to the last eight at a major.
“Ï think I proved that I can be in the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam, even if I have a lot of things to improve probably physically and mentally,” she said. “But I’m happy that I pushed through a lot of things. I proved to myself that I could do a lot of great things.”
In later men’s quarterfinals, 20-time major winner Roger Federer was playing 100th-ranked Tennys Sandgren, and seven-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic had a night match against Milos Raonic of Canada.