“I won’t be intimidated by the terrain”
For the first time in Dakar’s history, a Saudi biker will be on the start line of the event. And Mishal Al Ghuneim will of course be on home soil. Rumours of the race coming to his country pushed him to finally fulfil his childhood dream. Indeed, well before the move was made official he was already registered on other off-road rallies to get prepared. While he knows what to expect from the terrain, the 36-year-old entrepreneur is perfectly conscious that he lacks of that precious experience that can take a rider to the finish. Mishal who runs several businesses including a dirt bike center will be riding a KTM 450 RR with the only goal to finish and of course enjoy every single minute of his first Dakar.
“The Dakar had always been a childhood dream. I remember watching Eurosport and being fascinated by Jutta Kleinschmidt and the Mitsubishi Pajero cars. I would watch the landscapes and tell myself “we have this in my backyard”. Then the dream drifted away. When I heard about rumours that the Dakar might come to Saudi Arabia, I started thinking about it again. I took that opportunity to get prepared. My initial plan was to do the Dakar in 2021 or 2022 but when it was announced for 2020, I couldn’t let this go by. I’ll be the first Saudi on a bike. Of course that helps to find sponsors. I feel there’s a real interest from the local community. Saudi Arabia has the perfect natural habitat and diverse landscapes to welcome the Dakar. It’ll also bring some fresh air to the towns and villages in the country side. I feel that the rally spirit is back. The vastness of the terrain is rather interrogating. We’ll be riding some 7000kms but the country still has a lot more to offer and discover. My only advantage and it’s a slight one: I won’t be intimidated by the terrain we’ll witness. Other than that I have disadvantage at every other level. I’m probably the least experienced of competitors. I’m not the competitive type. I’ll just race against myself. It’s an extreme marathon and all I want to do is reach the finish in good health and with a big smile.”
- Mark : KTM
- Model : 450 RALLY
- Performance tuner : Himself
- Assistance : X RAIDS TEAM
- Class : G2.1 Super production
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An all-consuming passion for the Dakar
Saudi Arabia is opening up to tourism, at the same time as it welcomes the Dakar for the first time, this year. This is perfect timing, for these are the two main centres of interest for Mishal Algunheim, the first Saudi to compete in the rally in the bike category.
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