UAE’s motocross rider Mohammed Al Balooshi added yet another special achievement to his successful career by finishing in 10th in the Baja Aragon to put him top of the FIM Bajas World Cup standings.
The rally was the second round of the competition and his finish in Spain puts him at the top of the standings on 26 points, six clear of second-placed Michael Metge and Joan Pedrosa in third with 17.
His performance was even more impressive considering he started the Baja in 38th position after a temporary early stage set back during the Super Special stage. However, the UAE champion was able regain strength and climb up the standings to make up ground over the two days.
“It was a really tough rally,” said Al Balooshi. “The competition was intense with so many top riders from Europe, the terrain was difficult to read going and with permanent changes through mountains, valleys, riverbeds, very hard and rocky areas. We had it all.
“And on top of that, we went from very warm weather to riding under heavy rain which was very risky. It was something that is new to me, with reduced visibility and surfaces so slippery that at points was like racing on ice.”
He added: “I won’t exaggerate if I said that one round of Aragon Rally is as tough as the toughest round of Dakar. And then also in Dakar the terrain is in general unknown to most of the competitors, while here there is a huge amount of super experienced riders who are very familiar with the terrain as well as they train and race in the area very frequently. It was an awesome experience, very challenging, and I’m very happy with the results we achieved.”
Al Balooshi who is the first Emirati to top the Bajas World Championship is hoping to complete the job in the final round in Hungary next month. However, his dream of getting his hands on the world title could be over unless sponsors step in and offer financial support.
“My next mission is to compete in Hungary the final round of the World Cup, and for this I really need the financial support from our sponsors in this short period,” he added.
Al-Qemzi, who clinched the prestigious F2 title last year in Portugal, teams up with Rashed Al-Tayer for the weekend’s race that is being staged on Limfjord between the two parts of the city of Aalborg. Aalborg lies to the south of the fjord and Nørresundby lies to the north.
Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair and Khalid Al Wahaibi survived a dramatic opening race at the Red Bull Ring, the first half of the second round of the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland in Austria on Saturday afternoon.
Al Zubair was running ahead of his young Omani colleague until he suffered a collision, spun out in traffic after 10 of the 17 laps and had to fight his way back through the field to the finish.
Al Wahaibi reached the chequered flag just outside the top 10 on his European Porsche racing debut in Spielberg.
Austrian driver and pole position winner Thomas Preining and Germany’s Michael Ammermuller completed a one-two finish for the BWT Lechner Racing Team, while Dutchman Larry ten Voorde finished third.
Al Zubair said: “I got hit in the first lap and, from then on, the balance of the car completely went. I was running P13 in a race that had become damage limitation.
“I went in for another move and got hit completely, spun and had an accident. After that, I was just trying to catch up. Today it was a bit more than just touching out on the track.”
In contrast, Al Wahaibi was pleased with his maiden effort for the team.
“It was a good start to my European season,” said Al Wahaibi.
“We started in P19 and I finished P12 or 13, not sure exactly because the results are not final. It was a huge grid so you always have a lot of cars in front of you and behind you.
“It’s a great way to learn. I start further up the field for the second race in P16. Hopefully we can keep moving forward.”
Al Zubair, driving for the Lechner Racing Team Middle East team, and his fellow countryman Al Wahaibi struggled with the traffic on the circuit in qualifying, but were moved up to 14th and 17th for the start of race one.
Preining and Ten Voorde filled the front row of the grid and the Austrian held his line and the lead through lap one, as Ammermuller moved into second place and Peter Scheufen spun out and Dylan Pereira survived a spin himself and slipped to 30th position. Al Zubair and Al Wahaibi held 15th and 16th through lap two.
Both Omanis gained another place each on lap three and Al Wahaibi passed Al Zubair soon afterwards to move into 14th.
Preining, Ammermuller and Ten Voorde held the podium positions into lap seven and Al Zubair regained 14th from Al Wahaibi.
Al Zubair spun out after a collision in traffic on lap 10 and dropped to 23rd as Al Wahaibi benefited to gain 14th.
The rookie gained another place to 13th on the next lap, as the leading trio maintained their positions heading into the last three laps.
Igor Waliko suffered a collision, retired in the gravel and his demise from seventh place promoted Al Wahaibi to 12th and Al Zubair to 22nd.
The defending Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East driver then moved up another place to 21st.
The safety car was brought out on lap 15 of 17, after Marius Nakker retired and the flag went green with one lap remaining. Preining held on to fend off Ammermuller and Ten Voorde to seal the victory.
Al Wahaibi lost two places after the restart to finish 14th and Al Zubair reached the chequered flag in midfield after gaining several positions after his 10th-lap incident.
Race two fires into life at 11.40 on Sunday.