The Victory Team’s strategy of promoting four-time F1 world champion Alex Carella into the cockpit paid early dividends as the Italian powered his way to an outright triumph in the Match Race honours at the EDH Grand Prix of Norway.
With neither of the Team Abu Dhabi drivers, including the 2017 UIM F2 world champion Rashid Al Qamzi entering the race, it was Victory Team’s Carella showing the way while clocking a top speed of 187kph in the speed run in his first appearance for the team in blue this season.
Competing in Norway’s oldest city of Tønsberg, Carella defeated home favourite Ola Petterson in the final with his run of 1 minute, 13.45 seconds much better than his Swedish opponent’s 1:13.99 minutes. Earlier in the semi-finals, Carella had defeated Norway’s Tobias Munthe-Kaas, while Petterson had got the better of American Brent Dillard.
Carella was pleased with the fine showing from the Dubai-based team that has so far gone without any major successes this season.
“We have a good package which really worked well for us today,” Carella admitted after his win.
“The package was really stable, so I think little by little we are getting there. What we achieved today is also important for team spirit following the team’s lows during the past few races,” he added.
Al Qamzi had consolidated his hold on the 2017 world title after finishing in third place on the famous fjord course before sealing a first-ever world crown for Team Abu Dhabi in the season-ending Grand Prix of Portugal in a shortened championship last autumn.
Italian Alberto Comparato is currently leading the championship after winning the Grand Prix of Lithuania in Kaunas – the opening round of the championship – at the end of May. He is pursued by Edgaras Riabko of Lithuania (15 points), Stefan Hagin on Germany (12) and defending champion Al Qamzi (9).
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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.