|31 December, 2019

Saudi desert rally champ gearing up for ‘indescribable’ Dakar race experience

The 42nd edition of the grueling desert race, running from Jan. 5 to 17, will see participants start in Jeddah and pass through locations such as NEOM, the Red Sea Project, Riyadh and Qiddiya

Image used for illustrative purpose. Dakar Rally - 2019 Peru Dakar Rally - Stage 2 from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona, Peru - January 8, 2019 X-Raid Mini JCW's driver Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver David Castera in action during the race.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Dakar Rally - 2019 Peru Dakar Rally - Stage 2 from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona, Peru - January 8, 2019 X-Raid Mini JCW's driver Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver David Castera in action during the race.

REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

RIYADH: Saudi desert rally champion Ibrahim Al-Muhanna said the thrill of taking part in the 2020 Dakar Rally, being staged in the Kingdom for the first time, was “indescribable.”

The 42nd edition of the grueling desert race, running from Jan. 5 to 17, will see participants start in Jeddah and pass through locations such as NEOM, the Red Sea Project, Riyadh and Qiddiya.

The 53-year-old driver said: “The feeling of being able to participate as a Saudi in Dakar Rally is indescribable. I have participated in many rallies before, but this is the top rally in the world.”

Al-Muhanna is looking forward to the challenge, alongside co-driver Osama Al-Sanad and mechanic Raed Abo Theeb, in a Mercedes Unimog 500. “It’s a true test of one’s commitment to the sport and their adventurous spirit, their patience and durability.

“It tests not only the driver, but their whole team. Maintenance, support, everyone goes through the ring of fire and comes out on the other side stronger, and a better team,” he added.

However, it will not be Al-Muhanna’s first Saudi rally. “I have participated in other rallies in Saudi Arabia, such as the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally, where I won the championship in the T4 truck category.

“The number of rallies I have participated in will be 139 after Dakar. I would have liked Dakar to be a unique number at 140 but I couldn’t find another rally to participate in before it. But we are aiming for Hail Rally to be number 140.”

Considering that Al-Muhanna only started training to become a rally driver in 2007, and participated in his first world championship in 2008, it is an impressive feat.

He described the Kingdom as the perfect location for the famous event, which would be a big motivator for Saudis too. “I think this is a great opportunity for Saudis who want to participate in a rally, and I think that the geography of Saudi Arabia really sets the scene for a great rally. The variety of locations and backdrops will make for a very exciting atmosphere.”

Al-Muhanna pointed out that he could not have achieved his success without considerable support. “I want to thank the General Sports Authority, and in particular Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal (the authority’s chairman). I also want to thank my sponsors Zeej Print, Nana Direct, and Taqarub, and of course the Security Forces Officers Club,” he said.

On his preparations for the Dakar event, he added: “We have worked hard to ensure that our truck is up to the safety standards required by Dakar Rally. Our truck has been tested and passed every inspection, so it’s definitely ready to take on Dakar.”

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