Rally Dakar: Miscommunication costs Mohammed Al Balooshi early farewell to Dakar
Santiago, Chile: After an incredible performance over the past 10 days by KTM-UAE’s leading Arabic racer in the toughest motorsport event in the world, The Dakar Rally, Mohammed Balooshi was unfortunately forced to pull out of the competition due to an off-route crash. The result has a particularly bad sting to it, given Balooshi had been achieving good ranks every day with his KTM 450 rally bike.
A miscommunication between the organisers and the local police meant that Balooshi, along with a number of other riders, was redirected through a different route that was not in the road book. Without any road book marking or warnings, Balooshi and a fellow rider hit a hole in the road, which led to both of them crashing in the ninth stage, which is considered to be one of the toughest. This meant that Balooshi was forced to retire just five stages before the end, in between Antofagasta and Iquique.
Participation in the 2012 Dakar has been a milestone in the Emirati KTM rider’s professional career. From being the best rider in the UAE from 2003 through competing in the UAE, GCC and the Arabian championships to taking on the Dakar this year, in Latin America, Balooshi is now going for a tenth year of success in the motorsport world.
“I can honestly say that I don’t think any of the racing I have done before helped me with what happened,” Balooshi said after retiring. “The Dakar Rally is a one-off; there’s nothing like it. I’ve done small rallies before that last three or four days, but that can’t compare with the Dakar. I’m just hoping to improve day by day. I’m lucky that my team and my sponsors didn’t put any pressure on me to perform miracles. Everyone was supporting my plan of just getting to that finish line and learning along the way.”
Only four days from the finish, with mostly sand stages ahead in Peru, Balooshi was looking forward to keeping his momentum until the finish, saying, “I feel angry because we had a strategy which was to bring the bike and rider home day by day and be consistent in my first Dakar. It has proven to be the right strategy and it worked well as I climbed from the starting position of 130th to 43rd, overall.
“Only the section that I was lead to with other riders resulted in me hitting a hole. But, all in all, we need to keep positive and look back at an incredible experience gained over 10 days. I will be back next year – the Dakar chapter has only begun for me and we will be back next year,” Balooshi promised.
The reigning Arabian motorcycle champion also added, “I want to thank everyone who supported me, especially KTM-UAE, Red Bull, Geodis Wilson, Volkswagen, FibraFoil and the Al Shafar Group, as well as the KTM Factory Team, who treated me and my bike like one of their own.”
Balooshi is set to fly to Santiago and later make his way back to the UAE, where he will certainly receive a hero’s welcome.