Nasser Al Attiyah produced a convincing victory in the inaugural Dubai International Baja powered by AW Rostamani and Nissan today as Dubai-based South African rider Mark Ackerman produced a brilliant surge on the last leg to clinch the bikes crown.Qatar’s reigning FIA World Cup champion Al-Attiyah, partnered by French co-driver Mathieu Baumel in a Toyota Hilux, extended his overnight lead to win by 14 mins 57 secs from the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Khalid Al Kendi who finished a clear second in their Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot 2008 DKR.
Former Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge quads champion Mohammed Abu Issa with Frenchman Xavier Panseri were another 8 mins 10 secs further away in third in their Mini All4 Racing in the second round of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and buggies.
Finishing seventh overall, Ukrainian driver Vadym Prytuliak driving solo in a Polaris RZR edged out the UAE’s Ahmed Al Maqoodi and Obaid Al Kitbi by just nine seconds to capture the buggies title.
With the event also forming the opening round of the FIM Bajas World Cup Ackerman, riding a Husqvarna, wiped out a 1 min 28 secs overnight held by Benjamin Melot on a KTM to win the stage and take the bikes title by 29 seconds from the Frenchman.
With the UAE’s new World Cup event producing more spectacular action as the Nissan Stage 3 unfolded among the dramatic dunes and plains of the Al Qudra desert, top Emirati rider Mohammed Al Balooshi climbed one place to finish third.
Young Emirati Mansour Al Helei, partnered by experienced WRC co-driver Chris Patterson in an Abu Dhabi Racing Toyota Land Cruiser, was an impressive winner of the T2 production class, taking it by 3 mins 34 secs from UAE-based Emil Khneisser in a Nissan Patrol.
Qatar’s reigning FIA World Cup T2 champion Adel Hussain Abdulla of Qatar was third in the class in another Nissan Patrol.
“The event has been an outstanding first-time success and it will go from strength to strength because the baja form of rallying is the future for the sport here,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers, and the Emirates Motor Sport Federation.
Al Attiyah, who had emphasised before the start that the Dubai International Baja signposted an exciting new era for rallying in the Middle East, will immediately set his sights on defending his title in the Desert Challenge next month.
A relative newcomer to cross country rallying by comparison, Al Qassimi will also be aiming to make a big impact in the event.
As the Dubai Baja reached the official finish at the Bab Al Shams Arena he said: “Today it was very windy and the track had deep ruts after yesterday’s two stages. As a result, we had to look to drive through different lines and take some risks on new sandy tracks. We also had to keep in mind not to lose time, especially on the small back-to-back dunes.
“I pushed hard on the straight sections and we had a moment on one of the dunes when we were about to roll after the car hit the nose. In general, it was a good event and we are happy with the podium. This event has given us more experience in desert rallies.
“Also, it is a very important podium for us as it is the first time we have finished a cross country event on the podium. “I am happy with the result as it is not just for me but the entire team at Abu Dhabi Racing and PH Sport. We are now looking forward to the Desert Challenge in a couple of weeks.”
Frenchman Ronan Chabot in a Toyota Hilux, Czech Republic driver Miroslav Zapletal in a Hummer, and World Cup first round winner Aron Domzala of Poland in another Hilux completed the cars top six.
Topping the bikes standings was comfortably the biggest achievement of his riding career for Ackerman, who had a lot of work to do to catch Melot after an opening leg which brought the early retirement of Dubai-based Dakar Rally champion Sam Sunderland. Italian Alessandro Ruoso, Kuwaiti
Mohammed Jaffar and Dubai-based British rider Dave McBride rounded off the top six. Taking place under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, the Dubai International Baja was supported by Dubai Sport Council, Dubai Police, Dubai Civil Defence, Al Ain Water and AssetCo Fire and Rescue.
The rally was closing with tonight’s official prize giving ceremony at Bab Al Shams Areana.
- Nasser Al-Attiyah / Mathieu Baumel (QAT / FRA) Toyota Hilux 3:55:46
- Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi / Khalid Al Kendi (ARE /ARE) Peugeot 2008 DKR 4:10:43
- Mohammed Abu Issa / Xavier Panseri (QAT / FRA) Mini All4 Racing 4:18:53
- Ronan Chabot / Gilles Pillot (FRA / FRA) Toyota Hilux 4:26:57
- Miroslav Zapletal / Marek Sykora (CZE / SLO) Hummer H3 EVO V11 4:29:09
- Aron Domzala / Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL / POL) Toyota Hilux 4:47:23
- Vadym Prytuliak (UKR) Polaris RZR 1000 T3.1 4:49:06
- Ahmed Al Maqoodi / Al Kitbi Obaid (ARE / ARE) Polaris RZR 1000 4:49:15
- Khaled Al Feraihi / Obaid Ali Hassan (KSA / ARE) Nissan Petrol 5:03:36
- Yahya Al Helei / Nasser Al Kuwari (ARE / QAT) Nissan Pick Up 5:11:01
- Mark Ackerman (RSA) Husqvarna 450 FX 4:15:50
- Benjamin Melot (FRA) KTM 500 EXC 5 4:16:19
- Mohammed Al Balooshi (ARE) KTM 450 SXF 1 4:23:19
- Alessandro Ruoso (ITA) KTM 450 SXF 1 4:31:03
- Mohammed Jaffar (KUW) KTM 450 Rally 4:35:52
- David McBride (GBR) KTM 450 Rally 1 4:36:59
- Tim Trenker (DEU) Husqvarna 450 FX 1 4:46:36
- Shannon O’Connor (RSA) KTM 450 SXF 1 4:49:48
- Fahad Al Musallam (KUW) Yahamah 700 Raptor 4:52:53
- Khalid Khamis Ozair (ARE) Husqvarna 450 FX 1 4:52:56