Baja Rally - Al Rajhi
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi and his British co-driver Michael Orr on their way to winning the Dubai International Baja on Saturday. Image Credit: Supplied photo

Dubai: Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi completed an emphatic first victory in the Dubai International Baja on Saturday 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 Shaikh Khalid Al Qasimi 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 Qasimi 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.

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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. Dane Andreas Borgmann topped the national class in his CAN-AM Maverick X.

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 on Saturday 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 Mohammad 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.

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

Cars: 1. Yazeed Al Rajhi/Michael Orr (SAU/GBR)/Toyota Hilux Overdrive (5:22.13); 2. Shaikh Khalid Al Qasimi/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (ARE/DEU)/Peugeot 3008 DKR (5:56.02); 3. Yasir Seaidan/Aleksei Kuzmich (SAU/RAF)/Mini John Cooper Works Rally (6:00.07); 4. Pierre Lachaume/Loic Minaudier (FRA/FRA)/PH – Sport Zephyr (6:18.53); 5. Pavel Lebedev/Kiril Shubin (RUS/RUS)/CAN AM Maverick/T4 (6:48.46); 6. Mshari Al Therifi/Ali Hassan Obaid (KWT/ARE)/CAN AM Maverick/T4 (7:18.16); 7. Claude Fournier / Szymon Gospodqrczyk (FRA/POL)/CAN AM Maverick (7:33.51); 8. Michael Fadel/Craig Tyson (ARE/ARE)/Polaris/T3 (8:11.56); 9. Laia Sanz/Lucas Cruz (SPA/SPA)/CAN AM Maverick/T4 (9:12.34); 10. Thomas Bell/Patrick McMurren (ARE/ARE)/Nissan Navara (9:43.07).

Bikes: 1. Sam Smith (GBR)/KTM SX - F 450 (5:50.03); 2. Martin Michek (CZE)/Husqvarna SX F450 (5:51.34); 3. Mohammad Al Balooshi (ARE)/Husqvarna FC 450 (6:02.59); 4. Abdullah Abuaisheh (JOR)/KTM SX-F 450 (6:04.55); 5. Mark Ackerman (ZAF)/Husqvarna FX 450 (6:09:39); 6. Konrad Dabrowski (POL)/KTM SX-F 450 (6:23.40); 7. Abdullah Dakhan (ARE)/Yamaha YZ 450 F (6:37.27); 8. Mishal Al Guneim (SAU)/Husqvarna 450 Rally (6:52.31); 9. Darko Marasovic (CRO)/KTM SX – F 450 (7:00.13); 10. Mirjam Pol (NLD)/Husqvarna FC 450/1 (7:04.06).