Baja: Saudi Al Rajhi clinches Dubai Baja Victory as Smith takes Bikes title
Dubai, UAE, 20 February, 2021: Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi completed an emphatic first victory in the Dubai International Baja today while UAE-based British rider Sam Smith recorded his maiden bikes triumph in the event after a dramatic climax to the double World Cup rally
Partnered by British co-driver Michael Orr in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive, Al Rajhi won the second round of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas by an emphatic margin of 33mins 49 secs from the UAE’s Khalid Al Qassimi and German Dirk Von Zitzewitz in an Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot 3008 DKR
After opening up a lead of more than 21 minutes on the first leg, the Saudi dominated again over the 194 kms Arabian Automobiles Nissan Special Stage, while Al Qassimi snatched second place from Yasir Seaidan and Aleksei Kuzmich after an earlier collision with the Saudi’s Mini John Cooper Works Rally.
It happened when the Emirati slid over a big dune and collided with the Mini which had become stuck in the notoriously soft sand of the Al Qudra desert.
The French pairing of Pierre Lachaume and Loic Minaudier in their PH Sport Zephyr finished fourth and also claimed the T3 buggies crown. Taking fifth place overall, Pavel Lebedev and Kiril Shubin landed the T4 title in a CAN AM Maverick. David Mabbs topped the national class in a Polaris RS1.
Smith, lying third overnight, came through for a major win after the two UAE-based South Africans ahead of him on the first leg both saw their victory hopes shattered today in the opening round of this year’s FIM Bajas World Cup.
Defending champion Aaron Mare, the first leg leader by 2 mins 20 secs, was halted when his Honda blew its engine. Mark Ackerman, winner in 2017, reached the finish ahead on his Husqvarna only to be relegated to fifth place by a 20 minute time penalty for missing a waypoint.
The biggest performance of the day came from Martin Michek of the Czech Republic, who set the fastest stage time on his Husqvarna, by almost ten minutes from Smith, to claim second place after shaking off the effects of a hard fall on the opening leg. Smith’s winning margin was 1min 31 secs.
The UAE’s 2018 rally winner and World Cup champion Mohammed Al Balooshi, riding a Husqvarna, collected the third podium position, despite a crash and GPS problems.
Fellow-Emirati rider Sultan Al Balooshi, lying fourth overnight, was evacuated to hospital by helicopter for X-rays after injuring his right side and lower back in a crash on the stage.
Another Emirati, Mansoor Al Suwaidi on a Yamaha YFZ 450 R, recorded an overwhelming quads victory by more than 4hrs 18 mins from Saudi Haitham Al Tuwayjiri on another Yamaha.
Taking place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, the Dubai International Baja is sponsored by Dubai Electricity & Water Authority, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park and Arabian Automobiles Nissan.
The Rally had been cancelled last year owing to the coronavirus emergency, but the fourth edition was staged in compliance with strict COVID-19 Protocol, and has made history as the first FIA World Cup cross-country event to be run on solar power.
“We’re very happy to have brought World Cup rallying back to Dubai,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Emirates Motorsports Organization and FIA Vice President for Sport, before the official podium prizegiving at DEWA’s Innovation Centre, the rally HQ. “It’s taken a big team effort to make this happen, and put on a very successful event.”
A jubilant Al Rajhi said at the finish: “The Dubai Baja was really good for us after an unlucky week in the Dakar rally. It has been a difficult rally, which is good as we learn more.
“Today we did not push to a lot, but we did some of the time – on two wheels!. Michael did a great job. I really enjoyed the Baja, and we came to show our support to the organisers in these COVID times.”
New bikes champion Smith said: ““I really enjoyed today. It was very good despite the early part where I couldn’t get my flow. But later I started to ride better and increase the pace, catching up with the leading two riders, Mark and Martin. The Dubai Baja is a really great event and I encourage all riders here in the UAE to take part in this international event which is on our door step.”
Provisional results after Arabian Automobiles Nissan Special Stage
- Yazeed Al Rajhi/ Michael Orr (SAU / GBR) / Toyota Hilux Overdrive 5:22.13
Khalid Al Qassimi / Dirk Von Zitzewitz (ARE / DEU) / Peugeot 3008 DKR 5:56.02
Yasir Seaidan / Aleksei Kuzmich (SAU /RAF) / Mini John Cooper Works Rally 6:00.07
Pierre Lachaume / Loic Minaudier (FRA / FRA) / PH – Sport Zephyr 6:18.53
Pavel Lebedev / Kiril Shubin (RUS / RUS) / CAN AM Maverick / T4 6:48.46
Mshari Al Therifi / Ali Hassan Obaid (KWT / ARE) / CAN AM Maverick / T4 7:18.16
Claude Fournier / Szymon Gospodqrczyk (FRA / POL) / CAN AM Maverick 7:33.51
Michael Fadel / Craig Tyson (ARE / ARE) / Polaris / T3 8:11.56
Laia Sanz / Lucas Cruz (SPA / SPA) / CAN AM Maverick / T4 9:12.34
Thomas Bell / Patrick McMurren (ARE /ARE) / Nissan Navara 9:43.07
- Sam Smith (GBR) / KTM SX – F 450 5:50.03
Martin Michek (CZE) / Husqvarna SX F450 5:51.34
Mohammed Al Balooshi (ARE) / Husqvarna FC 450 6:02.59
Abdallah Abuaisheh (JOR) / KTM SX-F 450 6:04.55
Mark Ackerman (ZAF) / Husqvarna FX 450 6:09:39
Konrad Dabrowski (POL) / KTM SX-F 450 6:23.40
Abdulla Dakhan (ARE) / Yamaha YZ 450 F 6:37.27
Mishal Al Guneim (SAU) / Husqvarna 450 Rally 6:52.31
Darko Marasovic (CRO) / KTM SX – F 450 7:00.13
Mirjam Pol (NLD) / Husqvarna FC 450 / 1 7:04.06
INCIDENTS AND MORE COMPETITOR COMMENTS FROM LEG 2
- Abdulmajeed Aakhulaifi (SAU)
Retired with engine problem.
- Martin Michek (CZE)
“This morning I had a lot of pain after the crash yesterday so my plan for today was to do my best. I pushed hard and then in the last few kms I hit a dune very hard. This made my nose bleed. I am happy to finish. The Baja is very good, but difficult as I am not a dune rider.”
- Mark Ackerman (ZAF)
“More tricky today with white dunes, very up and down, and some big jumps. Baja is a very good event and I encourage those in Europe to come. Despite the COVID situation, this is a great event.”
- Mohammed Al Balooshi (ARE)
“Not my best day after the 1st refuel, I had a big crash and lost my GPS and that makes it very difficult to race. I am very upset that Sultan had a big crash. I saw he was down and was very worried. The medics gave me the thumbs up. It is not the greatest of days. For me the most important thing is Sultan. The race does not matter.”
25 Abdallah Abuaishen (JOR)
“It was a tough day and I crashed over a dune a 135k but I am okay.”
- Konrad Dabrowski (POL)
“I raced better than yesterday after making a few changes to the bike. I felt better following my long break for Dakar. The Baja is really good and I am happy to be here.”
- Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi / Dirk Von Zitzewitz (ARE / DEU)
“Today we found it hard to get a good rhythm going because of the soft sand. Then 60-70 km before the finish we climbed a big dune and heard two alarms, one bike and car 208. Coming over the top we could see 208 and had no room to maneuver so we hit car 208, damaged the rear driver’s side of our car and lost a lot of time.”
- Pierre Lachaume / Loic Minaudier (FRA / FRA)
“Very good today, no problems, and really good navigation from Loic. The dunes were easier today. This is our first Baja in Dubai and it is a really great international event. I am very happy with it.”
- Saleh Alsaif / Oriol Vidal Montijano (SAU / SPA)
“It was a nice stage with no problems for us. Except I felt sick because of the heat. We made no mistakes today but lost some time to help Claude (216) who was stuck. The Dubai Baja is nice but tricky with the navigation.”
- Laia Sanz / Lucas Cruz (SPA / SPA)
“Very good rally. We came here to learn and we did. How to tackle the dunes, how to look after the car being two of the biggest lesson. Very good training.”
- Thomas Bell / Patrick McMurren (ARE /ARE)
“Our 4th Baja and the best so far. It was adventurous and quite technical with tight tunes and a lot of zig-zag of the route. Hard for the navigator. The organization was fantastic both on and off the course.”