Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Wednesday 15th February 2017-
The fourth season of the Emirates Desert Championship concludes on Friday 17th February 2017 with the fifth and final round taking place in the Emirate of Dubai, and all the major titles still up for grabs.
In the AUTO category, it is a straight fight between Emirati Khalid Al Jafla and his Qatari rival, former FIA Middle East Rally Champion Sh. Hamad Al Thani. Al Jafla has experimented with various different vehicles this season before finally settling on his FIA T1 Armada Trophy Truck, which he took to victory in the previous event. While Al Thani currently leads the championship going into the final round, victory for Al Jafla will be enough to retain the title that he first won last season.
In the BUGGY category, with three wins out of four races already this year, Emirati Ahmed Al Maqoodi is the favorite to retake the title he previously held in 2014-15. While the Polaris Racing Team UAE driver will aim to finish the championship on a high and aim to take the maximum possible points with a win in the final round of the season, he can mathematically guarantee secure his title by finishing as low as tenth in the category. Second and third place are also still up for grabs with the trio of Tom Bell, Omar Sawan and Ryan Trutch all capable of finishing second when the dust clears.
“It is great to see all championship’s still up for grabs at the final round of the championship. As we’ve seen from Formula One in recent years, when a title is already decided before the final races, it’s very easy for people to lose interest”, said Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) President and Emirates Motor Sport Federation (EMSF) Chairman Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
“So far, we have had a very successful season, and it has been particularly gratifying to me to see the amount of new competitors coming into the sport for the first time, especially among the buggies which are a good entry level category. Personally, I actually don’t care who wins so long as everyone has fun and gets home safe at the end of the day!” Ben Sulayem concluded.
This year, Emirati biker Mohammed Al Balooshi will be hoping for success at the third attempt, after finishing runner up in the MOTO category in each of the previous two seasons. He currently leads reigning champion Ross Runnalls going into the final round by a margin of 19 points, but the gap will likely be much smaller at the end of the season due to the championship regulation of determining a competitor’s final points total from their best four results from the five events. Balooshi currently has four points scoring finishes from four races, while Runnalls was forced to retire in the second round following a crash. This means that the pressure is on Runnalls to finish and score good points in the final round, while Balooshi could actually retire from the race but still win the title as a result of his points from the previous four. In order to take things into his own hands, Balooshi can guarantee the title by finishing ahead of Runnalls in the final race.
“The competition at the EDC is very high and I am very happy to be part of it. I have been very consistent on the podiums during all season and it’s a privilege to be fighting for the title with very strong competitors in both the overall and my class. With stronger competitors than in the past and with the biggest entry list of the region, this year the level has gone for sure a few levels up and that is good for the sport”, said Mohammed Al Baloushi
For me coming back from injury, being on top of the ranking has a special flavour; I know all the competitors work hard, but I personally gave my 110% to be back at the top and improve my skills level and fitness, same as I always do when racing. I’m very happy to be leading the Emirates Desert Championship for the third year in a row and hope this time things will go in my favour! The past 2 years I ended as runner up against 2 different riders and now with this lead after 4 rounds I feel really strongminded, so inshAllah this time I will be able to claim the championship because it feels like long overdue”, Added Al baloushi.
Finally, it is a similar situation in the QUAD class where Emirati Obaid Al Kitbe can guarantee his first Emirates Desert Championship title by finishing higher than Kuwait rider Fahad Al Musallam, leaving Khalifa Al Rasse and Humaid Al Mashghouni likely to fight it out for third place. Should Al Kitbe win he will become the fourth different Emirati rider to win the Quad Title in as many seasons.
The final round of the Emirates Desert Championship will take place on the morning of Friday 17th February 2017 in the spectacular dunes of the Al Faqa’a region of Dubai, just north of the Abu Dhabi border. The race will begin at 08:30 and last for approximately two hours with all spectators welcome.
The Emirates Desert Championship is the UAE’s National Baja rally series for cars, buggies, motorcycles and quads, and is organized by the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) and the Emirates Motor Sport Federation (EMSF).