Al Qassimi makes flying start to Dubai World Cup Rally

DUBAI, The UAE’s Khalid Al Qassimi grabbed the half way lead in the Dubai International Baja powered by Nissan and AW Rostamani today as he left behind a trail of the world’s top drivers in the Al Qudra desert.

Partnered by Frenchman Xavier Panseri in an Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot 3008 DKR, Al Qassmi took a 48-seconds first leg advantage over Jakub Przygonski, Poland’s defending world champion and last year’s winner, in the second round of the 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas for cars and buggies.

Przygonski and German Timo Gottschalk in a Mini John Cooper Works Buggy were another 2 mins 9 secs ahead of the third-placed Czech pairing of Martin Prokop and Jan Tomanek in a Ford Raptor RS Cross Country on the 201.6lkm AW Rostamani Arabian Automobiles special stage.

Russia’s two-times Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winners Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive, Lithuania’s Benediktas Vanagas and Bartlomiej Boba in another Hilux and Czech pairing Miroslav Zapletal and Marek Sykora in an F150 Evo completed the top six.

While top Emirati rider and 2018 Dubai Baja winner Mohammed Al Balooshi suffered a major first day setback in the opening round of this year’s FIM Bajas World Cup for bikes and quads, UAE-based South African rider Aaron Mare won the opening leg for the second year in a row.

Al Balooshi, the defending world champion, failed to start the stage after his Kawasaki stopped with engine failure on the road section after leaving Dubai Autodrome.

There were no problems for Mare. The Husqvarna rider built up a 5 mins 17 secs lead from the KTM of UAE-based French rider Benjamin Melot, runner up for the last two years, with Dubai based 2017 winner Mark Ackerman another 2 min 7 secs away in third on a Husqvarna The bikes top six was completed by Kuwait’s Mohammed Jaffar on a KTM, Emiirati Sultan Balooshi on a Kawasaki and Ryan Blair on another Husqvarna.

“We’ve had a highly competitive first leg and once again the Dubai desert terrain has shown what a great test it provides for the best drivers and riders from across the region and overseas,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers, and FIA Vice President for Sport.

Taking place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, the Dubai International Baja powered by Nissan and AW Rostamani saw 34 cars and buggies and 39 bikes and quads set off from the rally base at Dubai Autodrome.

The event is supported by the Government of Dubai, Dubai Police, Dubai Municipality, the General Authority of Sports, Dubai Customs, Al Ain Water and Emarat petrol.

In the T3 Side by Side category Qatar’s Adel Abdulla with French co-driver Jean Michel Polato in a CAN AM Maverick X3 were fastest by 4 mins 59 secs on the day from UAE-based Michel Fadel and Craig Tyson in a Polaris XP 1000.

Kuwaiti Fahad Al Musallam’s bid to complete a hat-trick of quads triumphs on a Yamaha 700 Raptor were ruined by mechanical failure, leaving the UAE’s Honda rider Khalifa Al Raisse to take a convincing 14 mins 35 secs lead over Saudi Arabia’s Abdulmajeed Al Khulaifi on a Yamaha.

For top-seeded driver Al Qassimi it was the ideal start to the Dubai Baja after mechanical failure on the opening day last year ended his hopes of victory, although he still reported a problem.

He finished the stage to say: “We had an issue with the dampener around the 30km mark and it was knocking about so we didn’t want to push the car too much, which probably cost us a minute or two. I’m very happy to finish in first despite the issues – it’s always a good thing.”

Source: Emirates News Agency