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Rosberg X Racing make history as first ever Extreme E winner after dramatic Desert X Prix in AlUla

ALULA: Rosberg X Racing have won the inaugural Desert X Prix in the desert of AlUla to become the first team to claim a victory in an Extreme E event thanks to a masterclass of rally driving from Molly Taylor and Johan Kristoffersson. In the final, former Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg’s team overcame Andretti…

ALULA: Rosberg X Racing have won the inaugural Desert X Prix in the desert of AlUla to become the first team to claim a victory in an Extreme E event thanks to a masterclass of rally driving from Molly Taylor and Johan Kristoffersson.

In the final, former Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg’s team overcame Andretti United and Lewis Hamilton’s X44, who finished second and third on the podium.

The winners may have had a few technical issues over the weekend — not to mention a 60-second penalty in Saturday’s qualification that saw them drop from first to third in the standings — but when it mattered, the team delivered an almost faultless drive.

“I’m so thankful,” said an ecstatic Rosberg. “Thankful to Molly for driving so fantastically throughout the weekend, not a single mistake out there because the penalty was technical problem. She did a fantastic job. Molly was always the fastest out there so that was awesome. And also, Johan’s performance was really inspiring and amazing to watch.” He added that he “felt really proud watching them.”

Including points gained from earlier rounds, Extreme E’s early season leaderboard now sees Rosberg X Racing lead with 35 points followed by X44 on 30 and Andretti United on 28.

“For the sport, it’s been a good start,” Rosberg added. “It’s a start-up and of course it needs to evolve, (which) we need to discuss after the weekend. But it’s really been a good start and with Molly and Johan we got the most deserving winners, most deserving drivers on top of the podium because they been the fastest drivers throughout the weekend.”

Kristoffersson thanked his team for his and Taylor’s success, especially taking into account the earlier troubles.

“First of all, huge congratulations to the team,” the Swedish driver said. “We had some minor issues but we came here very well-prepared, which made our life so much easier out on-track. This sport isn’t only about the drivers; it’s about the team giving us the tools to do the job. With such a limited amount of track time, you need to have confidence that the car will do what you ask of it – and the Rosberg X Racing guys did an amazing job to give Molly and myself such a great car.

The Desert X Prix wrapped up the first of the five-event electric SUV series, which has been designed to raise awareness of change and with each locations highlighting a different environmental issue, beginning with Saudi Arabia and desertification. 

“It was the first time we had experienced terrain like that, and on every lap, the course was changing – there were so many different variables to deal with,” said Taylor. “We just wanted to make the most of the little time we had in the car, every single kilometre.”

“You have to be fast when it counts, be smart when it counts and take the big moves when it counts, and for it to all come together when it mattered was really special, “ the Australian added. “Huge thanks to Johan, his opening laps were just insane, and the team has done such an incredible amount of work behind-the-scenes.”

Next up for the awareness-raising series will be Senegal (rising sea levels), followed by stops in Greenland (melting ice caps), the Amazon in Brazil (deforestation) and Patagonia, Argentina (glacial recession).  

Saturday’s qualifying rounds had seen X44, ACCIONA Sainz XE Team and Rosberg X Racing finish as the top three, securing their passage into Sunday’s semi-final, from which the top two would qualify to the final. Andretti United, meanwhile qualified to the Crazy Race against Hispano Suiza Xite Energy Team, and Jenson Button’s JBXE, with winner getting a ticket to the final race

The results led to the teams led by former F1 rivals taking on Catie Munnings and Timmy Hansen, who had come major obstacles to get to that stage.

But as winners of the fan-led GridPlay vote, Andretti United had the luxury of choosing their starting spot for the Final. Hansen went for pole position on the right, with Kristoffersson lining up in the middle for Rosberg X Racing and X44’s Loeb taking up the third grid slot on the left.

Hansen had a flying start but after being overtaken by Loeb, there was only going to be one winner.

Munnings was delighted with the second place finish.

“I just don’t have the words, I’m smiling so much,” she said. “Timmy [Hansen] is my absolute hero, just a legend. His starts today have been incredible, which has made my job easy and all about bringing it home. With the puncture back at the beginning of Qualifying, who would have thought we would be here in second place now? The hard work paid off and we managed to turn our weekend around.”

The British driver also delivered a thumbs up for the new series, particularly as it has given female drivers as many spots places and equal driving time as their male counterparts.

“Extreme E offers an amazing platform for female drivers, and it’s super cool to be racing against such fast girls,” she said. “It’s been really nice to see everyone coming together, encouraging each other and creating a competitive environment, and all of us, men and women alike, have been learning on the job and having a great time while doing it.”

Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Extreme E said he couldn’t have wished for better start for Extreme E.

“We’ve worked so hard on this for many years, and finally everything has come together this weekend,” he said. “It really has been beyond my wildest expectations. If I had written a script for the perfect weekend, I could not have come up with anything better than what we have witnessed these past two days. I’ve never seen such extreme racing in my life.”

With the Desert X Prix now done-and-dusted, the cars will be loaded back onto the St. Helena – Extreme E’s floating centrepiece – to set sail for Lac Rose in Senegal, the setting for the Ocean X Prix on May 29-30.

Extreme Championship Standings:

Rosberg X Racing (Johan Kristoffersson / Molly Taylor) 35 points

X44 (Sébastien Loeb / Cristina Gutiérrez) 30 points

Andretti United (Timmy Hansen / Catie Munnings) 28 points

ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team (Carlos Sainz / Laia Sanz) 26 points

Hispano Suiza XITE Energy Team (Oliver Bennett / Christine Giampaoli Zonca) 20 points

JBXE (Jenson Button / Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky) 17 points

ABT Cupra XE (Mattias Ekström / Claudia Hürtgen) 13 points

Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing (Kyle LeDuc / Sara Price) 12 points

Veloce Racing (Stéphane Sarrazin / Jamie Chadwick) 8 points

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Hostage policemen released by TLP religious party after government negotiations

PARIS: France is imposing entry restrictions on travelers from four countries — Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil — in hopes of keeping out especially contagious coronavirus variants, the government has announced. The restrictions include mandatory 10-day quarantines with police checks to ensure people arriving in France observe the requirement.  Travelers from all four countries will…

PARIS: France is imposing entry restrictions on travelers from four countries — Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil — in hopes of keeping out especially contagious coronavirus variants, the government has announced.

The restrictions include mandatory 10-day quarantines with police checks to ensure people arriving in France observe the requirement.  Travelers from all four countries will be restricted to French nationals and their families, EU citizens and others with a permanent home in France.

France previously suspended all flights from Brazil. The suspension will be lifted next Saturday, after 10 days, and the new restrictions “progressively” put in place by then, the government said. 

The flight suspension for Brazil will be lifted followed by “drastic measures” for entering France from all four countries, plus the French territory of Guiana, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

The four countries “are the most dangerous in terms of the number of variants that exist and in the evolution of the pandemic in these countries,” Le Drian said Saturday on the France 3 television station.

The list of countries subject to tougher border checks could be extended, he said.

Under the new restrictions, travelers must provide an address for where they plan to observe the 10-day confinement period and police will make visits and fine those who are found in violation, the government said.

Along with the mandatory quarantine, France is requiring more stringent testing for the coronavirus. 

Travelers must show proof of a negative PCR test taken less than 36 hours instead of 72 hours before they boarded a flight, or a negative antigen test less than 24 hours

France has reported the deaths of 100,00 people in the COVID-19 pandemic.

A variant first identified in England spread to continental Europe and is now responsible for about 80 percent of the virus cases in France, while the variants first seen in Brazil and South Africa make up less than 4% of French infections, Health Minister Olivier Veran said last week.

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UEFA says will ban clubs who take part in breakaway ‘European Super League’

LONDON: Chelsea ended Manchester City’s quest for a historic quadruple of trophies as Hakim Ziyech’s goal earned a 1-0 win to take the Blues into the FA Cup final on Saturday. A damaging day for City also saw them lose Kevin De Bruyne to an ankle injury just over a week away from the League Cup…

LONDON: Chelsea ended Manchester City’s quest for a historic quadruple of trophies as Hakim Ziyech’s goal earned a 1-0 win to take the Blues into the FA Cup final on Saturday.

A damaging day for City also saw them lose Kevin De Bruyne to an ankle injury just over a week away from the League Cup final, where they face Tottenham, and the first leg of their Champions League semifinal against Paris Saint-Germain.

Chelsea were good value for another impressive win under Thomas Tuchel and will be favorites for the German’s first silverware in English football when they face Leicester or Southampton May 15.

Tuchel could land an even bigger prize in the Champions League just months after replacing the sacked Frank Lampard in January.

His side showed they can get the better of City in what could be a dress rehearsal for the Champions League final should the English clubs see off PSG and Real Madrid in the last four.

The physical demands of City’s bid for a clean sweep of trophies was shown as Pep Guardiola made eight changes from the side that beat Borussia Dortmund in midweek with goalscorers Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez among those rotated.

Tuchel made just three changes and Chelsea looked the far less disjointed side in a bright start.

Timo Werner’s cross was swept home by Ziyech after just six minutes, but the goal was ruled out for offside against the German international.

That proved to be the only shot on target of a cagey first 45 minutes that did little to whet the appetite of a potential reunion in Istanbul for European club football’s greatest prize on May 29.

Despite the number of changes, the ease with which Chelsea were able to spring quick counter-attacks will be of concern to Guardiola with the fearsome duo of PSG’s Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to come.

From one slick break, Chelsea’s wing backs combined but Ben Chilwell could only slice Reece James’s cross wide.

City got to half-time without any damage on the score line, but suffered a potentially huge blow to their hopes of still clinching a treble of trophies early in the second half.

Just 11 days before the first leg of the PSG tie, De Bruyne appeared to roll his ankle in a challenge with N’Golo Kante and was replaced by Foden.

City were still reeling from the loss of the Belgium attacker when they were finally caught out by the Chelsea counterattack.

Guardiola’s decision to retain Zack Steffen in goal for domestic cup competitions backfired as the American was caught in no man’s land when Werner raced in behind and once again squared for Ziyech to roll into an empty net.

Steffen made some measure of amends moments later to deny Ziyech a second when the Moroccan was clean through.

City took until the final 20 minutes to get going, but their best chance of sending the game to extra time came from a corner as Ruben Dias headed over from close range.

Instead, it was Chelsea who found the net again through Christian Pulisic in stoppage time only for the offside flag to again come to City’s rescue.

But there was no saving a bid for history for Guardiola’s men as they cannot now better Manchester United’s treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup from 1998/99.

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Gaza man winning hearts by donating traditional food to the poor

BEIRUT: Controversial Lebanese judge and Mount Lebanon state prosecutor Ghada Aoun carried out a second raid on a money exchange in northern Lebanon on Saturday in defiance of a senior judiciary decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches. Aoun was accompanied by several activists from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) during…

BEIRUT: Controversial Lebanese judge and Mount Lebanon state prosecutor Ghada Aoun carried out a second raid on a money exchange in northern Lebanon on Saturday in defiance of a senior judiciary decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches.

Aoun was accompanied by several activists from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) during the raid on the money exchange in the Awkar district in northern Lebanon.

Less than 24 hours earlier she raided the office with members of the security services.

Aoun remained in the money exchange for several hours on Friday in protest at her dismissal by the the discriminatory Public Prosecutor, Judge Ghassan Oweidat, a decision that caused widespread anger among the Lebanese public.

Caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm held an emergency meeting on Saturday with Oweidat as well as Supreme Judicial Council head Judge Suhail Abboud and Judicial Inspection Authority head Judge Borkan Saad.

After the meeting Najm voiced her anger at the situation regarding the judiciary, saying that she refuses to be “a false witness to the decay of the judiciary and the fall of the fig leaf in this state.”

Najm said the events involving Aoun are an indication of “the failure of state institutions.”

Lebanon is facing a political and economic crisis amid disputes between state officials, a deadlock that has led to the collapse of the national currency.

However, critics accuse Aoun of a lack of respect for due process.

HIGHLIGHT

Caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm held an emergency meeting on Saturday with Oweidat as well as Supreme Judicial Council head Judge Suhail Abboud and Judicial Inspection Authority head Judge Borkan Saad.

There are six criminal cases and 28 complaints against her before the Judicial Inspection Authority — the largest number of cases filed against any judge in the history of the Lebanese judiciary.

Aoun was investigating the Mecattaf money exchange company and Societe Generale Bank for allegedly withdrawing dollars from the market and shipping the funds abroad.

The Supreme Judicial Council dismissed Aoun along with two other judges who had previously been suspended by the Disciplinary Council for Judges.

Judge Oweidat on Friday asked the Director-General of State Security, Maj. Gen. Antoine Saliba, to suspend the officers who accompanied Aoun on the exchange office raid.

People in Lebanon on Friday watched on TV as Aoun requested that the money exchange office be sealed because the owner, Michel Mecattaf, refused to provide her with details of currency transfers on behalf of banks.

Earlier, Mecattaf’s agents informed Aoun that she had been dismissed from the case.

Aoun remained alone for hours inside the office after state security personnel left. A medical team checked on her after her blood pressure rose, and she left the premises soon after. Later she stepped on to the balcony of her home to wave to FPM supporters, who gathered outside to offer support.

After Aoun’s second raid on Saturday, the head of the Mecattaf financial company accused her supporters of “breaking into private property by force.”

Mecattaf described the case as “eminently political,” saying that he is “a witness and not a convict.”

Najm described the events as “unacceptable.”

“I am not in a position to please this political party or that team. We want an effective and independent judiciary. The problem is not the laws — oversight and accountability have been absent for years,” she said.

Najm also said that “the judiciary is incapable of fighting corruption,” and called on judges to “rise up against this reality.”

She added: “There is a lack of confidence in the judiciary, and this is a major insult.”

Retired General Prosecutor Hatem Madi told Arab News: “Judge Oweidat’s decision shows that some judges are working independently, but things must be put to rights. Regardless of whether Oweidat’s decision was right or wrong, the public prosecution offices in Lebanon must be an integrated unit.”

The decision to dismiss Aoun revived a political dispute between the FPM and the Future Movement, the two parties in conflict over the formation of the government.

The FPM, headed by MP Gebran Bassil, said that it will “continue to expose every file related to the fight against corruption,” saluting “every judge who rightfully performs their duties despite the injustice to which they are sometimes exposed.”

The Future Movement said that “mourning for judges after encouraging them to violate laws and asking them to open discretionary files for opponents is a matter that no longer fools any of the Lebanese people.”

 

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