Al-Rajhi pips Sainz on opening stage of Sharqiya Baja motor race in Alkhobar

Yazeed Al-Rajhi in action on Thursday. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 December 2019

Al-Rajhi pips Sainz on opening stage of Sharqiya Baja motor race in Alkhobar

ALKHOBAR: Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi beat two-time Dakar Rally champion Carlos Sainz by 1.2 seconds to claim the fastest time over an extended opening 6.34km stage at the Sharqiya Baja on Thursday.

Forty-nine cars, 7 NUTVs, 14 motorcycles, 16 quads and 1 truck took the official start of the fifth and final round of the inaugural Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship on Half Moon Bay near Alkhobar.

Driving a Toyota Hilux alongside navigator Michael Orr, Al-Rajhi carded a time of 3min 59.4sec and will be first on the road when the action switches to the open desert on Friday morning. Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz are using the event as a pre-Dakar shakedown in the first of two X-raid MINI Buggies.

Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi finished the stage in third place, 7.9 seconds off the lead, while Czech Miroslav Zapletal and Al-Rajhi’s title rival Yasir Seaidan rounded off the top five.

ED Racing’s Essa Al-Dossari was the best of the rest in his Nissan Navara from Saleh Al-Abdelali’s seventh-placed Hummer and Ahmed Al-Shegawi in eighth.

Zimbabwe’s Conrad Rautenbach and Portuguese co-driver Pedro Bianchi Prata used their PH Sport Can-Am Zephyr for the first time in the T3 category and held ninth place overall and an advantage of 4.7 seconds over 11th-placed Saleh Al-Saif at the end of the stage. 

Salman Al-Shammeri posted the target of 5min 20.4sec in the T2 section for series production cross-country vehicles, but that was eclipsed by Yousef Al-Suwaidi’s run of 5min 12.6sec.

Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb safely negotiated the short special in their T4 Mercedes, while Zakariya Al-Tuwaijri held a 2.6-second lead over Majed Al-Tuwaijri in the NUTVs.

Motorcycles tackled the stage first and Mishal Alghuneim set the target time of 5min 54.2sec on his KTM and that was enough to claim the fourth quickest time on two wheels. The stage win fell to Emirati rider Othman Al-Ghufeli on a Honda with a run of 5min 39.0sec. The Saudi duo of Mohammed Al-Muaikil and Fahad Al-Hijab were second and third.

Sufiyan Al-Omar laid down the gauntlet in the quad category with an unofficial opening stage of 4min 46.3sec and that was 8.9 seconds faster than the time set by title contender Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi. Abdullah Al-Shegawi completed the special in third, but Al-Khulaifi’s main series rival Riyadh Al-Oraifan dropped three minutes and came home in 16th.

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 the supervision of former FIA Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab.

Inclement weather conditions and heavy rain on Tuesday and a poor forecast for the weekend forced Baja officials to make last minute changes to the weekend’s route through the desert. The service park was also moved.

On Friday, competitors tackle a shortened selective section of 197.18km in place of the original 257.44km through the deserts of the Kingdom’s Eastern Province. Saturday’s final timed section has been reduced from 213.10km to 171.25km, so officials have lost around 100km of stage distance due to the weather.


Grizzlies roll past Bucks 119-106, reach West play-in round

Updated 14 August 2020

Grizzlies roll past Bucks 119-106, reach West play-in round

  • The Grizzlies (34-39) tied for ninth place in the Western Conference with Phoenix, but advances to the play-in round because it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over Phoenix

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: With their season on the line, Jonas Valanciunas and Ja Morant teamed up to make history and keep the Memphis Grizzlies’ playoff hopes alive.
Valanciunas and Moranth had triple-doubles, Dillon Brooks scored 31 points and the Grizzlies beat the Milwaukee Bucks 119-106 on Thursday to wrap up a spot in the play-in tournament that will determine the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
This marked the first time in franchise history that two Grizzlies had triple-doubles in a game. The team effort helped the Grizzlies bounce back after losing six of their first seven games since the NBA returned from a 4 1/2-month layoff.
“I’m happy that we responded,” said Valanciunas, who had 26 points, 19 rebounds and 12 assists. “We showed character. We’re not going home. We’re going to fight until the last second.”
Dillon Brooks added 31 points as Memphis never trailed while capitalizing on the fact Milwaukee was missing Giannis Antetokounmpo. The reigning MVP was serving a one-game suspension after head-butting Moritz Wagner in a 126-113 victory over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.
The Grizzlies (34-39) tied for ninth place in the Western Conference with Phoenix, which beat Dallas 128-102 on Thursday. Memphis advances to the play-in round because it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over Phoenix.
Memphis now faces Portland (35-39), which earned a spot in the play-in round by edging the Brooklyn Nets 134-133 on Thursday night.
As the No. 9 team, Memphis must beat Portland two straight times to advance to face the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.
Memphis hasn’t been to the playoffs the last two years after making seven straight postseason appearances from 2011-17.
“It’s great to see in a meaningful game that our guys just stuck with it,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We’re going to need that on Saturday — even more and more and better and better.”
Valanciunas earned the game ball after getting his first double-double in his 559th career NBA game. The 28-year-old Valanciunas’ previous career high in assists was five.
“I’m definitely going to keep that ball for a long time to show my kids that Daddy did it,” Valanciunas said.
Morant had 12 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
This marked the first time two teammates posted triple-doubles in the same game since Miami’s Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler did it Dec. 10 in a 135-121 overtime victory over Atlanta. Valanciunas and Morant are the 12th pair of teammates to post triple-doubles in the same game, including the postseason.
Brook Lopez scored 19 to lead five Bucks in double figures. Frank Mason had 18, Donte DiVincenzo collected 17, Khris Middleton 14 and D.J. Wilson 12.
This game was meaningless for the Bucks, who already had clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for a second straight season. But it meant everything for the Grizzlies and Jenkins, who was an assistant on Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s staff last season and previously worked for him in Atlanta.
It was quickly apparent which of these two teams had the most incentive. Memphis led by as many as 23.
“You’d have to be head in the sand really deep to not understand everything that was at stake today,” Budenholzer said. “Taylor and his group have done such a great job this year. They earned it. They played well today. They were sharp. Guys really stepped up.”
TIP-INS
Bucks: Starting guard Wesley Matthews missed a second straight game with a sore right adductor. Budenholzer remains confident that Matthews will be ready for the playoffs. “We feel like everything’s in a reasonably good place,” Budenholzer said before the game. “Probably just smartest not to push it today, give him another day or two. We don’t expect it to linger or be a problem past today.”
Grizzlies: Morant ended the regular season averaging 17.8 points and 7.3 assists. The only rookies in NBA history to average at least 17 points and seven assists are Oscar Robertson (1960-61), Magic Johnson (1979-80), Isiah Thomas (1981-82), Damon Stoudamire (1995-96), Allen Iverson (1996-97) and Trae Young (2018-19). ... Valanciunas has collected at least 10 rebounds in seven straight games, the longest active streak in the NBA. ... Memphis was the designated home team. Former Grizzlies Tony Allen and Zach Randolph were included among the team’s “virtual fans” in the arena.
MIDDLETON JUST SHY OF 50-40-90
Middleton shot 5 of 13 and was just shy of becoming the ninth NBA player to finish a season shooting at least 50% from the floor, 40% from 3-point range and 90% from the foul line. He ended up shooting 49.7% on field-goal attempts, 41.5% on 3-pointers and 91.6% on free throws.
UP NEXT
The Bucks will face the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs starting Tuesday. The Bucks swept four regular-season meetings with Orlando.
The Grizzlies move on to the West’s play-in tournament.
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