Dubai: Polish driver Jakub Przygonski battled his way to victory in the Dubai International Baja, powered by Nissan and AW Rostamani, as top UAE rider Mohammad Al Beloushi claimed his first World Cup bikes triumph to climax two days of classic cross country rallying.
Partnered by Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul in a Mini John Cooper, overnight leader Przygonski completed the second leg’s 174km Nissan special stage to secure the cars title with a winning margin of 4 minutes and 8 seconds from the Russian pair of Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov in another Mini.
Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Hamed Seaidan with Russian co-driver Aleksei Kuzmich finished third another 1.32 minutes adrift in their Toyota Hilux.
But the day’s highlight was when UAE champion Shaikh Khalid Al Qasimi put behind the opening day’s mechanical issue to set the fastest time on the Nissan stage alongside French co-driver Xavier Panseri in their Peugeot Abu Dhabi Racing Team 3008 DKR.
Fastest today in the bikes, Al Baloushi powered his KTM to the Dubai Baja crown by 2.56 minutes from UAE-based French rider Benjamin Melot who finished runner up for the second year in-a-row.
Lying fourth overnight, Al Baloushi benefited from the retirements of the first leg’s top two, South African Aaron Mare and Kuwait’s Mohammad Jaffar, but had a nervous ride to the finish, unsure whether he had enough fuel to complete the stage. It was a great day all round for Al Baloushi, as his younger brother Sultan took the third podium place.
Saudi Arabia’s Ahmad Al Sheghawi accompanied by French co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter in a Toyota Landcruiser landed victory in the T2 production cars class.
Meanwhile, the French pairing of Graham Knight and David Watson won the buggies title in their Polaris RZR 1000 while Kuwait’s Fahad Al Musallam repeated last year’s quads triumph on a Yamaha 700 Raptor. Andreas Borgmann topped the national buggies class in a CAN-AM Maverick X3.
Mohammad Bin Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE (ATCUAE) and Emirates Motor Sport Federation, and FIA Vice-President for Sport, said: “This is a young event but it’s already pointing the way forward for rallying in the UAE and the Middle East, and we’re confident that it will go from strength to strength in the years ahead.”
Runner-up in last year’s FIA World Cup series, Przygonski was thrilled with his win. “It was a really good stage. I kept pushing and pushing to stay ahead. The terrain was good, navigation was good. I’m very happy,” he said.
Completing the top six in the cars category were Czechs Martin Prokop and Jan Tomanek in a Ford F-150 Evo, the UAE’s Mansour Al Helei and Khalid Al Kindi in a Nissan Pick up and UAE-based Thomas Bell and Patrick McMurren in a Nissan Navara.
“I pushed really hard and didn’t give up throughout the last section. I felt there was some mix-up at the refuel with my teammates, and I went the whole of the second part of the stage not knowing if I had enough fuel,” Al Baloushi related.
The focus of the cross country rally world will now switch to the UAE capital for the 28th edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan from March 24 to 29. The event will be the third round of the FIA World Cup series and first round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship.
1. Jakub Przygonski / Tom Colsoul (POL / BEL) / MINI John Cooper 4:10.27
2. Vladimir Vasilyev / Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS / RUS) / MINI Mini One 4:14.35
3. Yasir Hamed Seaidan / Aleksei Kuzmich (KSA / RUS) / Toyota Hilux 4:16.07
4. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (CZE / CZE) / Ford F-150 Evo 4:46.03
5. Mansour Al Helei / Khalid Al Kindi (ARE / ARE) / Nissan Pick up 4:48.52
6. Thomas Bell / Patrick McMurren (ARE / ARE) / Nissan Navara 4:58.10
7. Shameer Variawa / Zaheer Bodhanya (ARE / ZAF) / Nissan Navara 5:02.22
8. Luke Botha / Gerhardus Schutte (ZAF / ZAF) / Nissan Navara 5:19.28
9. Ahmad Al Sheghawi / L. Lichtleuchter (KSA / FRA) / Toyota Landcruiser 6:14.24
10. Graham Knight / David Watson (FRA / FRA) / Polaris RZR 1000 6:15.21
1. Mohammad Al Beloushi (ARE) / KTM SX-F 450 3:58.39
2. Benjamin Melot (ARE) / KTM SX-F 450 4:01.35
3. Sultan Al Beloushi (ARE) / KTM SX-F 450 4:08.42
4. Manuel Lucchese (ITA) Yamaha 450 4:32.25
5. Richard Brewer (ARE) / YAMAHA YZ 450 FX 4:33.03
6. Shannon O’Connor (ARE) / KTM SX-F 450 4:35.14
7. Abdullah Bin Dakhan (ARE) / HUS QVARNA FX 450 4:43.26
8. Fahad Al Musallam (KWT) / YAMAHA Raptor 700 R 4:44.31
9. Joel Certano (ARE) / KTM EXC 500 4:47.20
10. Abdullah Shatti (KWT) / KTM SX-F 450 4:52.22