The FN Speed Team took part in the 7,000-kilometre race in the Saudi desert with two drivers who hold both Belgian and Israeli nationalities, the team's manager Omer Pearl said adding that the drivers had entered the kingdom using Israeli passports.

Driver Danny Pearl and co-driver Charly Gotlib, stand by their Lightweight Vehicle Prototype, as they take part in the Dakar Rally, Saudi Arabia January 8, 2021. Picture taken January 8, 2021.
Driver Danny Pearl and co-driver Charly Gotlib, stand by their Lightweight Vehicle Prototype, as they take part in the Dakar Rally, Saudi Arabia January 8, 2021. Picture taken January 8, 2021. (Reuters)

Israeli drivers had participated in the latest Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, a country with which the Jewish state has no formal diplomatic ties but hopes to normalise relations.

The FN Speed Team took part in the 7,000-kilometre (4,350-mile) race in the Saudi desert with two drivers who hold both Belgian and Israeli nationalities, the team's manager Omer Pearl said on Monday.

"We are proud to have made history by participating in this race," said Pearl, whose team finished second to last in the lightweight vehicles category.

He confirmed that certain members of the team, which is sponsored by the Israeli geneology firm MyHeritage, had entered the Gulf kingdom using Israeli passports.

"We waited for weeks... for the authorisation to enter the country with our Israeli passports to participate in this rally and we are glad we did not give up," he added.

According to Israeli media, Israeli drivers also took part in the race with the American team CRV.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia adopts “soft normalisation” with Israel

The 42nd edition of the famed rally, the most gruelling event on motorsport's calendar, was held in Saudi Arabia for the second year in a row.

Israel in recent months has agreed US-sponsored deals on normalising diplomatic ties with four Arab states: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia is often cited by analysts as another Arab nation that could follow suit.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to the Gulf kingdom in secret in November to meet with de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to Israeli media and Israeli officials who spoke to AFP.

Saudi authorities have denied the visit took place.

READ MORE: Arab normalisation with Israel foment divisions in the Saudi kingdom

Source: TRTWorld and agencies