Saudi driver hopes for success in the Dakar Rally

RIYADH: In a few days, the world-famous Dakar Rally will start in Hail.

It will feature two Saudi drivers, Dania Akeel and Mashael Al-Obaidan, who came second and third in the Hail Rally this month and gained experience practicing with professional racers and familiarizing themselves with the terrain.

Dania Akeel said: “My experience at the Hail Rally was excellent, as it came right before the Dakar Rally. I learned a lot from it and my car was performing at the highest level. However, it was the first time I had driven with the navigator and our communication was not good. We were not familiar with a lot of terrain and I did not get the support I needed to excel at this rally. She was maybe used to contestants with more experience; The pilot and navigator need to communicate and cooperate. In addition, our mechanics were a weakness, so I have chosen a professional mechanic for the Dakar Rally.

“All these matters weakened our performance on the first day. I drove fast and overtook the other cars, but then after a collision my car was missing a part that we did not get fixed it as I didn’t trust the mechanics. However, on the other days, our speed was excellent and I finished the race in second place, though a 30-minute penalty put me in third place at the finish.”

Akeel said: “I am looking to go beyond my boundaries as a driver, developing my skills, improving my speed and achieving good results. I want to focus on driving and reach the finish line safely and in the best way possible. However, I will focus not on the results, but on finishing the stages of the race.”

Asked about the inaugural Rally Jameel, the women-only rally that will be held in the Kingdom in March next year, she said: “I am pleased about the Rally Jameel initiative and I am excited to participate. The idea of a navigation rally for women provides a more encouraging place for them. Despite having the full support of men in other rallies I have participated in, this rally is dedicated to women, which offers a different environment. It helps them to get acquainted with Saudi Arabia’s terrain and introduces them to other women who enjoy the competition. It will encourage women who do not have car racing experience to enter the sport.”