The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi produced a storming second leg fightback to grab victory in the Abu Dhabi Baja while South African rider Aaron Mare scored a convincing bikes win.
Partnered by British co-driver Chris Patterson in the Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot 2008 Dakar, Al Qassimi won the 105-km Moreeb Special Stage 2, wiping out a first leg lead of almost six minutes by Saleh Al Saif in a CAN AM X3 to beat the Saudi driver by 1 mins 42 secs.
Andreas Borgmann took third placed and Dutchman Kees Koolen finished fourth, both also driving CAN AMs, with the UAE’s Khaled Al Jafla in a Dunebike Armada and T2 winner Mohammed Al Naasani at the wheel of a Nissan Patrol rounding off the top six. Ahmed Barakat in a Nissan Patrol topped Group S.
Overnight leader Mare, riding his official Honda team training bike for next year’s Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, was fourth fastest on the 105-km Moreeb Special Stage 2 but recorded an overall Motos victory by 1 min 44 secs from Kuwait’s Mohammed Jaffar on a KTM.
Top UAE rider Mohammed Balooshi set the fastest time on today’s stage to finish third overall, with veteran Dubai-based rider Dave McBride, Emirati Sultan Al Balooshi on a Kawazaki and Kuwait’s Abdullah Al Shatti on a KTM completing the top six.
Al Qassimi reached the finish at the renowned Moreeb Dune to say: “I had a better feel today and was able to push a little more so we had good momentum. We lost some time when came up behind one of the bikes in the dunes, got stuck and had to deflate the tyres. But it was fantastic to be in Liwa again and I enjoyed the rally very much.”
Saleh, who won the UTV auto class for four-wheel side-by-side vehicles, said at the end of the leg:
“That was a really good day, a nice stage and I’m very happy with my result.”
First leg bikes winner Mare, one of the rising stars of international cross country rallying, said: “It was two good days of rallying and I really enjoyed the event. It was great training for me, especially as the route is similar to what we’re going to find on the second week of the Dakar.”
Balooshi was full of praise for the new event, which was the fifth round of the 2019 UAE Baja Championship. “That was amazing riding, great terrain, a great route,” he said. “The organisers really outdid themselves. It’s the best route I’ve experienced in my 21 years of riding.”
Taking place under the patronage of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and organised by the Emirates Motorsport Club, the Abu Dhabi Baja was based at Moreeb Dune with the backing of Liwa Sport Club.
Provisional overall results - Autos
1. Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi / Chris Patterson (UAE/UK) / Peugeot 2008 DKR 3:26.13
2. Saleh Al Saif (KSA) / CAN AM X3 / T 3:27.55
3. Andreas Borgmann (UAE) / CAN AM Maverick X3 / T 3:42.00
4. Kees Koolen / Jurges Van Den Goorbergh (NL / NL) / CAN AM Maverick X3 / T 4:01.56
5. Khaled Al Jafla (UAE) / Dunebike / Armada 4:55.32
6. Mohammed Al Naasani / Ammar Mokayed (UAE / UAE) / Nissan Patrol 5:42.37
7. Mansoor Parol / Imran Mahmood (UAE / UAE) / Toyota Prado 5:54,07
8. Ahmed Barakat / Amira Khalil (UAE / UAE) / Nissan Patrol 6:20.20
9. Thomas Bell / Patrick McMurren (UAE / UAE) / Nissan Navara 12:38.46
10. Ali Obaid / Rashed Obaid (UAE / UAE) / Toyota Tacoma 12:55.28
Provisional overall – Motos
1. Aaron Mare (UAE) / Honda 450 Rally 1:15.06
2. Mohammed Jaffar (KWT) / KTM 450 SX-F 1:16.59
3. Mohammed Balooshi (UAE) / KTM Rally Moto 450 1:19.56
4. Rashed Abdulla (UAE) / KTM 250 SX 1:21.08
5. David McBride (UAE) / KTM 450 SX-F 1:23.12
6. Sultan Al Balooshi (UAE) / Kawazaki KX 250 F 1:23.37
7. Abdullah Al Shatti (KWT) / KTM Rally Moto 450 1:24.57
8. Richard Brewer (UAE) / Yamaha YZ 450 FX 1:27.08
9. Abdulla Abu Aisheh (JOR) / KTM 350 1:27.14
10. Abdulla Lanjawi (UAE) Kawazaki KX 250 F 1:30.05