The second round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas takes the contenders to the dunes and plains for the Dubai International Baja (February 18-20).
The FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas now embarks on a tour of the Middle East with the Dubai International Baja marking the first of three events based in the region. In stark contrast to the sub-zero temperatures on the opening round, warm conditions await the crews as they head to the Al Qudra desert for an immense test in the spectacular dunes.
This year, the event moves to the new Dubai Innovation Centre located at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the largest single-site solar energy project in the world. And, as such, the electrical power to run Rally HQ and the Service Park will all be generated from sustainable solar power, a first for an FIA World Cup cross-country event.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dubai International Baja was cancelled in 2020 so the form books look back to 2019, when Jakub Przygonski notched up his second consecutive victory on the event. Familiar names top the provisional entry list and Khalid Al Qassimi will be flying the flag for the UAE. The Emirati has won in Dubai three times, each occasion being when the event ran as the Dubai International Rally, the UAE’s first major motor sport event with a 37-year history. The Baja, the natural successor to the rally, was launched in 2017 and since then victory has eluded the Peugeot 3008 DKR driver, who will be partnered by Germany’s Dirk von Zitzewitz this year.
An intriguing battle is sure to play out with another of the top Arab drivers, Yazeed Al-Rajhi. The Saudi Arabian, and navigator Michael Orr, will be aiming for a maiden victory in Dubai in their Toyota Hilux Overdrive. Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov top the entries in an X-raid MINI John Cooper Works Rally and are another crew eyeing a good result after a disappointing outing on the opening round.
Dutchman Erik Van Loon, partnered by Sébastien Delaunay from France, are Overdrive team-mates to Al-Rajhi in a second Hilux, and Yasir Seaidan/Aleksei Kuzmich will be seeking another podium placing, having finished third in 2018. Regular contenders Miroslav Zapletal and Marek Sykora will be back in action in their F150 Evo, hoping to better their sixth-place finish in 2019.
The T3 category is headed by Conrad Rautenbach and Wouter Rosegaar, the pair having entered in a PH-Sport run Zephyr, and there are six entrants in T4. Claude Fournier, who won the category on the opening round, heads the pack and is back in action in his Can Am Maverick. Saudi Arabian driver Saleh Alsaif finished second in the 2020 FIA World Cup T3 Drivers classification and will be in similar machinery. Spanish motorcycle star, Laia Sanz - a 13-time Trials World Champion and five-time winner of the World Enduro Championship - has made the switch to four-wheels and she too will be competing in a Maverick.
RALLY DATA Total distance 426.68 km - Finish Saturday 20th