Saudi driver Seaidan ready for fresh battle in Al Qudra desert
The UAE’s Khalid Al Qassimi and Mohammed Al Balooshi top the driver and rider seedings for next weekend’s Dubai International Baja powered by Nissan and AW Rostamani, when both aim to step up to claim victory in the double World Cup event.
Partnered by French co-driver Xavier Panseri in his Peugeot Abu Dhabi Racing Team 3008 DKR, Al Qassimi starts as favourite to win the second round of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and buggies after finishing runner-up last year.
Top Emirati rider Al Balooshi, meanwhile, will be seeking a flying start in an event which also forms the opening round of the FIM Bajas World Cup for bikes and quads after finishing third on his KTM last year.
Al Qassimi and Al Balooshi head a powerful line-up of 88 competitors from 19 countries in the official seedings lists announced today by the Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE (ATCUAE), the national motor sport authority and rally organisers.
Taking place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, the rally is supported by the Government of Dubai, Dubai Police, Dubai Municipality and the General Authority of Sports.
The second edition of the Dubai International Baja powered by Nisan and AW Rostamani will be based at Dubai Autodrome, with the opening ceremony taking place at the new Rally HQ next Thursday(8th March) at 5pm.
“We have a top-class entry and look forward to two days of classic cross country rallying over a spectacular route across the dunes and plains of the Al Qudra desert,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the ATCUAE and Emirates Motor Sport Federation, and FIA Vice President for sport.
Following Al Qassimi into action in the Al Qudra desert will be Czech Martin Prokop and co-driver Jan Tomanek in the Ford F150 Evo which took them to second place in the first round of this year’s FIA World Cup series in Russia’s northern forest.
Russians Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov, back-to-back winners of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in 2014-15, are seeded third in a Mini One in a line-up of 32 cars and buggies.
They will be followed away by last year’s FIA World Cup runner-up, Poland’s Jakub Przygonski, accompanied by Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul in another Mini.
Seeded fifth in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive is Saudi Arabia’s Yaser Seaidan, fifth overall in last year’s FIA World Cup standings and fifth in Russia recently, partnered by Russian co-driver Aleksei Kuzmich.
Partnered by Omani co-driver Abdul Haleem, Emirati Abdulla Al Heraiz is among five drivers going into action in a Nissan Patrol, the official car for the rally.
Mansour Al Helei, accompanied by fellow Emirati Khalid Al Kendi and one of ten UAE drivers entered, is seeded ninth in a T1 prototype Nissan Pick-up as he looks to build on his T2 production class triumph in last year’s inaugural event.
Driving solo in a Polaris RZR, Ukrainian Vadym Prytuliak returns to action in Dubai seeking his second successive buggies title.
With Balooshi spearheading hopes of a bikes victory on home territory for the host country, UAE-based Shannon O’Connor, Abdulla Bin Dakhan, Mohamed Anis and last year’s runner-up Frenchman Benjamin Melot, complete the top five seeded drivers.
Also aiming for a successful title defence in Dubai is Kuwait’s Fahad Al Musallam who won the quads category last year and is back with his Yahamah 700 Raptor.
The international assembly of cars, buggies, bikes and quads tackle a demanding 174 km special stage running through the dramatic Al Qudra desert terrain on Friday (March 9) and again the following day, with the event finishing at Dubai Autodrome on Saturday (March 10).