Dubai: There was glory for local riders on the final day of action in the Dubai International Baja as the 2023 off-road rallying season came to a spectacular conclusion on Sunday.
UAE’s motorcycle star Mohammed Al Balooshi won the ENOC Leg 2 and with it a second FIM Bajas World Cup title with an emphatic 10m37.3s victory over Abdulla Alshatti with Jean Loup Lepan of France just 50 seconds further back in third.
With series leader David Megre of Portugal in fifth, it meant Al Balooshi was crowned World Cup Champion for the second time after a stunning success on home soil.
Results remained provisional late into the evening as the stewards deliberated over a protest, which was ultimately withdrawn. It was a victory for fair play and sportsmanship as the 2023 title was ultimately decided on the sand out in the desert. In the cars, Nasser Al Attiyah secured his second success in the event in its current Baja format, from ENOC Leg 2 winner Yazeed Al Rajhi.
The motorcycles were first in action on the ENOC Leg 2 of the Dubai International Baja which covered a total of 337km, with 169km of a very technical Special Stage in the challenging dunes to test the crews.
Mohammed Al Balooshi led the riders into action carrying a 1m50s lead into the final day of the seasons. Despite the disadvantage of being first on the road and having to navigate a path through the dunes, Al Balooshi was at home in every sense on the challenging terrain and roared to victory on the ENOC Leg 2 by 3m43s from Briton Alex McInnes with Jean Loup Lepan third.
Icing on the cake
For a second day in a row, series leader David Megre struggled on the unforgiving dunes and, while there was tension during refuelling in the desert, Al Balooshi was always in control and ultimately arrived back in Dubai Festival City with a comfortable margin to replicate his 2018 victories in both event and World Series to win by two points.
A thrilled Al Balooshi said: “Today was the last day of the last round and the last stage of the World Cup Championship and I’m really happy to finish it on a high note. We had a few situations with the timings and the FIA granted me my time back. I’m really happy to win the World Cup in my country and winning the Dubai International Baja is really the icing on the cake.”
There was further glory for local riders in the in the Quads where overnight leader Abdulaziz Ahli rubber-stamped his authority over Kevin Giroud to secure back-to-back successes in his home event. Giroud’s second place just over 4 minutes behind Ahli was enough for the Frenchman to take the world title.
The car season concluded with Al Rajhi winning the second leg from overnight leader Al Attiyah by 2m16.3s. That was enough for Al Attiyah to take the overall victory, his 12th success in the history of the event, with 2 victories since the beginning of the Bajas era and 10 previous victories under rally format, reinforcing his authority over the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas.
Quintero's mechanical issues
Initially it seemed that Seth Quintero, the young star who took over Al Attiyah’s Toyota Overdrive seat after the latter’s move to Prodrive Hunter, might vie for honours, but mechanical issues put paid to his chances on the final day.
That promoted outstanding Argentinian Juan Cruz Yacopini, who produced a fast and controlled performance to finish on the podium on his first visit to Dubai International Baja.
It’s a second Dubai International Baja victory for Al Attiyah and in total a 12th victory in Dubai including his success in the Dubai International Rally from which the current event can trace its lineage.
Speaking after his latest success Al Attiyah said: “It was a really great run. We won the last race and the World Cup and we are so happy.
Thanks to the organisation and the teams. It’s an amazing win.”
There were other titles up for grabs on the final day of competition in the 2023 season. There was family celebration in the T3 category where Cristiano de Sousa Batista won the final stage and his son Otavio Sousa Leite won the event and the overall World Cup. Dania Akeel finished third to guarantee her third position in the World Cup final classification.
Khalid Ben Sulayem, President of the Emirates Motorsport Organisation (EMSO), said: “This has been a very successful Dubai International Baja and a wonderful final day of action in the 2023 season with ENOC Leg 2 delivering a dramatic day of action.”
1. Nasser Al Attiyah — Mathieu Baumel (Prodrive Hunter) 5h22m52.3s
2. Yazeed Al Rajhi — Timo Gottschalk (Toyota Hilux) 5h28m06.2s
3. Juan Cruz Yacopini — Dani Oliveras (Toyota Hilux) 5h48m35.9s
1. Otavio Sousa Leite — Joao Ferreira (Can Am Maverick) 6h04m05.5s
2. Cristiano De Sousa Batista— Fausto De Almeida De Mota (Can Am Maverick) 6h04m05.5s
3. Dania Akeel — Calheine Taye Perry (Can Am Maverick) 6h32m50.3s
1. Joao Ferreira — Felipe Palmeiro (Can Am Maverick) 5h48m48.1s
2. Amerigo Ventura Montecamozzo — Mirko Brun (Yamaha YXZ1000R) 6h25m42.2s
3. Atif Alzarouni — Patrick Mcmurren (Yamaha YXZ1000R) 7h06m46.9s
1. Mohammed Al Balooshi (Yamaha YZF 450cc) 5h42m25.3s
2. Abdullah Alshatti (Kawasaki KZ 450cc) 5h53m02.6s
3. Jean Loup Lepan (KTM 450cc) 5h53m53.0s
1. Abdulaziz Ahli (Yamaha YFZ 450cc) 6h34m23.1s
2. Kevin Giroud (Yamaha Raptor 700cc) 6h53m50.2s
3. H Alnoumesi (Yamaha Raptor 700cc) 9h48m38.9s