Top drivers, riders face battle for supremacy in Al Qudra desert
The UAE's Mohammed Al Balooshi scored his first World Cup rally victory in last year's Dubai International Baja.
Dubai - The third edition highlights the new direction given to rallying
World Cup cross country rallying returns to the Al Qudra desert next month when the Dubai International Baja takes place from March 7 to 9.
The event has attracted leading riders and drivers from overseas to challenge the Gulf's top competitors.
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 Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai; 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 bin Sulayem, FIA Vice-President.
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 Feb.14-17.
Poland's Jakub Przygonski 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.