Settling in to Ha’il

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31/1/2023 8:18pm, Saudi Arabia

I had a very quiet and relaxing day for my first day in Ha’il yesterday. I was up at 6.30am and headed down to breakfast.

There’s a standard breakfast at the hotels throughout the UAE and Africa. It’s not too bad but there’s not a lot of variety and the coffee is nothing like in Australia. There is a Starbucks cafe in the foyer of the hotel so I am making the most of the their coffee.

At breakfast, I could see a few of the big car and buggy teams had started to arrive and the first team setting up in the bivouac was South Racing.

South Racing is maybe the biggest off road SXS (side-by-side vehicle) operation in the world. Their set up at Dakar is amazing with over 100 staff there just to support their racers.

My day yesterday was filled with eating and watching Netflix on my tablet in the room. The hotel is large and very modern with high class facilities, but as I have found previously in Saudi Arabia the TV reception and channels are non-existent.

I must have needed some sleep as I was laying on the bed at 5.30pm and next thing I knew my phone was ringing – it was 6am the next morning (today)!

Outside the wind was howling and it was still pitch black. There was a massive sand storm in the distance and it was very hard to keep upright with the wind. Then came the rain! It could be an interesting raceif this weather keeps up!

The full list of bike competitors has been released and there are some fast guys here. There’s a couple of past World Baja Champions and some local Saudi Guys that ride this terrain day in and day out. And with competitors from 22 different countries it’s going to be a tough event.

The officials have said that the 3 days of racing are comprised of 85% desert sand, 5% dunes and 10% rocks and gravel so it’s very similar to Dakar terrain.

Mishal (Aglhuneim) and the Saudi Dirt Bike team arrived at 5.30pm today and we were able to set up our spot in the Bivouac.

Mishal re-fractured his ankle at Dakar a few weeks ago and arrived here with a 50/50 chance of riding in this event. It’s great to talk with someone who has the same outlook and mindset as me when it comes to injuries. He only took the cast off 3 days ago and got rid of his crutches, but after discussing his injury with me I think he now has a 90% chance of starting.

Mishal has raced the Baja before and has been quite successful. He won the Saudi round last year.

He has been great in explaining to me that the Baja requires much more strategy than Dakar as you only have 3 days and can’t afford to make any mistakes. Apparently the local Saudi riders are extremely fast but can’t navigate well, so they will sit right behind and follow.

Tomorrow we have administration and scrutineering, and it’s time to set the Husqvarna FR450 up to suit me.