World Cup cross country rallying returns to the Al Qudra desert next month when the Dubai International Baja takes place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai.
Drawing leading riders and drivers from overseas to challenge the Gulf’s top competitors from 7-9 March, the event forms the second round of the 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas for cars and buggies and the opening round of this year’s FIM Bajas World Cup for bikes and quads.
The third edition of the Dubai International Baja powered by Nissan and AW Rostamani highlights the new direction given to rallying since being launched by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE), the national motor sport authority.
“We are indebted to His Highness Sheikh Hamdan for the typically enthusiastic way in which he has supported our efforts to ensure a bright future for rallying in the UAE by introducing and developing the Baja format,” said ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the FIA Vice President for Sport.
“The dunes and plains of the Al Qudra desert create a spectacular, natural platform for international baja rallying at its best, and with cars, buggies, bikes and quads involved this is an event which has something for everyone. We expect a classic desert rally.”
Based at Dubai Autodrome, the Dubai International Baja powered by Nissan and AW Rostamani is supported by the Government of Dubai, Dubai Police, Dubai Municipality, the General Authority of Sports, Dubai Customs, Al Ain Water, Emarat petrol, and Dubai Autodrome.
For the drivers contesting this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas, round two in Dubai presents a dramatic contrast in conditions after the series launches in the snow and ice of Russia’s northern forests from 14-17 February.
Poland’s Jakub Przygoński and Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul coped superbly with the transition last year, following up their fourth place in Russia with victory in Dubai on their way to securing the 2018 World Cup title in the FIA cross country rally series.
The pair had to work hard for their victory, however, eventually reaching the finish with a winning margin of just over four minutes from Russians Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov, two times winners of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the UAE’s other World Cup rally.
Last year’s event brought a breakthrough for top Emirati rider Mohammed Al Balooshi who captured his first World Cup bikes title to add to a string of Arab motocross championship triumphs after a tense second leg.
Lying fourth overnight, Al Balooshi benefitted from the retirements of the first leg’s top two, South African Aaron Mare and Kuwait’s Mohammed Jaffar, but had a nervous ride to the finish, unsure whether he had enough fuel to complete the stage.
The 2018 Dubai Baja was a great event all round for the Balooshi family as Sultan Al Balooshi took the third podium place.
The 2019 edition will send a powerful line up of cars, buggies, bikes and quads out onto a demanding 407km special stage running through the dramatic Al Qudra desert terrain on Friday, 8 March and again the following morning, ahead of the 12.30pm official finish at Dubai Autodrome.
Caption: The UAE’s Mohammed Al Balooshi scored his first World Cup rally victory in last year’s Dubai International Baja