Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: UAE’s Shaikh Khalid Al Qasimi will start as favourite to land the cars title in next month’s Dubai International Baja powered by Nissan and AW Rostamani, but he faces major opposition in an event drawing a world-class line-up of Middle East and overseas competitors.

Partnered by French co-driver Xavier Panseri in his Peugeot Abu Dhabi Racing Team 3008 DKR, Shaikh Khalid is the top-seeded driver in the second round of the 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas for cars and buggies.

Heading the bikes seedings in the event which also forms the opening round of this year’s FIM Bajas World Cup for bikes and quads is Mohammad Al Baloushi, the UAE’s reigning world champion and winner in Dubai last year.

The two top Emirati contenders are among an impressive international assembly of 115 competitors from 25 countries.

Among Shaikh Khalid’s main challengers will be last year’s winner, Poland’s Jakub Przygonski in a Mini John Cooper, the 2018 runners-up Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov in a Toyota Hillux Overdrive, and Czech driver Martin Prokop accompanied by Jan Tomanek in a Ford Raptor RS Cross Country.

Mohammad Bin Sulayem, president of the Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE (ATCUAE) and FIA vice-president for Sport, said: “We’re delighted with the number and overall quality of entries. The switch from conventional rallying to the Baja format was made to take the sport forward, and this event goes from strength to strength.”