RIYADH: The Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) is putting the finishing touches to the Sharqiya Baja 2019, the fifth and final round of the incredibly successful inaugural Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship.
The new event brings the year’s off-road rallying calendar to a close on Dec. 12-14 in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, and is being observed as an official candidate for future inclusion in the FIA World Cup for cross-country races.
The Sharqiya Baja will be based at the Holiday Inn on Half Moon Bay, near Alkhobar, in close proximity to the Kingdom’s causeway connection to Bahrain. The same location hosted Saudi Arabia’s round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship that graced the calendar in 2010 after running as an official candidate in 2008.
The German X-Raid team has already confirmed that two-time Dakar Rally winner and former WRC star Carlos Sainz will take part in the event as a last-minute shakedown before the Kingdom hosts the Dakar Rally for the first time at the start of 2020. Sainz and fellow Spaniard Lucas Cruz will wheel out the latest MINI John Cooper Works Buggy.
Pre-event checks will take place at the Holiday Inn on Dec. 11. The ceremonial start and opening super special stage begin from 3 p.m. on Dec. 12.
The first of the longer desert selective sections is scheduled to start at 8:50 a.m. on Dec. 13 and the last of the timed tests gets under way from 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 14 before the ceremonial finish at 7 p.m.
Entries close this Friday for the race, running with the support of SAMF, the General Sport Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.