Mohammad Al Baloushi
Mohammad Al Baloushi. Image Credit: Organisers

Abu Dhabi: Mohammad Al Baloushi, the first Emirati bikes star to capture a World Cup rally title, says he will have to be at his best in next month’s Abu Dhabi Baja to maintain his championship hopes in the UAE’s new off-road series.

After a fourth-round victory in Dubai earlier this month, Al Baloushi holds a fragile lead in the Motos 450 class of the inaugural UAE Baja Championship, and with only 11 points separating the top four riders the title race effectively remains wide open.

The 2018 FIM Bajas World Cup champion currently tops the standings by a single point from veteran rider Dave McBride, with Kuwait’s third-round winner Mohammad Jafar and Dubai-based South African Aaron Mare, winner of the first two rounds, also in contention.

“The competition is at a very good level in this first year of the championship and the arrival of the Abu Dhabi Baja will certainly add to that,” said Al Baloushi. “There’s very little between the top group of riders and nothing less than your best will be good enough to win.”

Taking place under the patronage of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and organised by the Emirates Motorsport Club, the Abu Dhabi Baja roars to life in the Liwa desert on 15-16 November.

Baloushi says the event underlines the UAE’s position as one of the world’s best stages for off-road rallying.

“As competitors, we’re very lucky what we have here — a growing number of top class off road events and some of the best terrain in the world for this type of rallying,” he said.

“It gives you great incentive as a rider to work hard and get in your best shape to compete. I’m in the gym or out in the desert on the bike every day to give myself the best chance of winning.”

Rashed Abdulla leads the championship’s Motos 250 class by five points from fellow-Emirati rider Ali Ashoor following two victories in the series, which has so far seen four one-day rounds in Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah as well as Dubai.

Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi, founder and President of the Emirates Motorsport Club, wants the Abu Dhabi Baja to catch the imagination of more top drivers and riders from across the Gulf region, as well as the UAE.

“This is the new flagship event for the UAE Baja Championship, and we want competitors in all categories from across the Emirates to embrace it, and make sure it goes from strength to strength,” he said. “We’ve already started attracting drivers and riders from the other Gulf countries, and we hope the launch of a two-day rally will bring many more to the UAE.”