Saudi Arabia is gearing up for the start of a historic desert rally with a strong international line-up of top drivers.Rally Asir 2019 will see 45 participants taking part in the first round of the inaugural Saudi Desert Rally Championship on Wednesday through Aug. 3.
Among the racers will be the event’s first ever female driver, Egyptian Yara Shalaby, in the T1 category. Shalaby said she was “overjoyed” to be making history in the Kingdom.
The race will be opened in Asir, with the second round being staged in Qassim, Ula and Neom before moving on to Riyadh. The last round will be held in the Eastern Province.
Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Abdullah Bakhashab, managing director of Saudi Rallies, said that he had high expectations for the championship.
“I feel it will be a great rally because it has the largest number of participating drivers. And since there was a lot of support from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the General Sports Authority (GSA) and Prince Khalid bin Sultan Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF), it’s bound to be a great one.
“Drivers participating in the rally have received between SR15,000 and SR65,000 in financial support, depending on the criteria they belong to. This support for the drivers is a great incentive for them to perform,” he added.
“This championship will be a preparation for the Dakar Rally in January 2020,” said Bakhashab.
Most of the drivers taking part are from Saudi Arabia alongside entrants from Egypt, Jordan, Portugal, Russia, Lebanon, France and the UAE.
Bakhashab said that as this was the second time the rally had taken place in Asir, organizers had designated specific waypoints for the drivers to reach their destinations. “It’s relatively easy with the skill of the co-driver navigating the driver. Though mountainous terrain with rough roads, it’s not too difficult.”
Hankook rally driver, Saeed Al-Mouri, has announced his participation in the Asir rally. The Saudi driver, who has just finished participating in the second round of the Middle East Rally Championship, will be driving a Nissan in the T2 category with the help of Lebanese navigator Joseph Matar.
The SAMF will be sponsoring Saudi competitors in this year’s edition.
In the four categories, racer Aref Al-Shammari will participate in the T1 category for the first time, seven drivers will participate in the T2, the official spokesperson for the Riyadh police department in the T3 category, and driver Ibrahim Al-Mohanna as one of the most prominent names in the T4 category.
Ferrari club members made a special trip from Italy to participate in the organization of the event, which will for the first time include a family rally. The rally’s activities include drifting, autocross, karting and performances suitable for all ages.
The activities of the rally aim to educate visitors about Asir’s heritage and culture, as well as raising awareness on the importance of car-related sports.
Source: Daily Times
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