Round 3 of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas
The Sharqiyah International Baja (March 4-6) marks the third round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas and the second of three events taking place consecutively in the Middle East. The contenders now head from the previous round in Dubai to the deserts to the west of Khobar on the Eastern coast of Saudi Arabia for the first running of the event in the FIA series.
Fresh from victory in Dubai, Saudi Arabian star Yazeed Al Rajhi tops the entry list. The Toyota Hilux driver and navigator Michael Orr are second in the FIA World Cup standings, Al Rajhi being just one point adrift of Vladimir Vasilyev. Another victory, this time on home soil, would significantly boost their title hopes in the early months of the nine-round series.
Fellow compatriot Yasir Seaidan, and co-driver Aleksei Kuzmich, will be looking to continue their podium-finishing run. The MINI John Cooper Works Rally crew claimed third in Dubai and top points in Saudi Arabia would catapult them up the standings, being that their three nearest rivals will not be in action this weekend.
Dutchman Erik Van Loon and French co-driver Sébastien Delaunay are team-mates to Al Rajhi, entered by Overdrive in a second Toyota Hilux, while the fourth seeds, Miroslav Zapletal and Marek Sykora will be looking to get their first points on the board in their self-built Ford F-150 Evo.
Behind a host of other T1 four-wheel drive vehicles driven by Saudi Arabian drivers is the T3 crew of Dania Akeel and her French co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter in a Can Am Maverick X3. Claude Fournier and Szymon Gospodarczyk top the T4 entries. They claimed seventh overall and third in T4 on the previous round in Dubai and Fournier will be eyeing another win after claiming the category honours on the season-opener and amassing an impressive 18.5-point advantage in the fight for the T4 Drivers’ title. The Frenchman drives the first of three South Racing Can-Ams alongside Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri and Dubai-based Thomas Bell. Bell will be co-driven by Spanish former enduro rider Armand Monleón. Local driver Saleh Al-Saif will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing outing in Dubai to challenge for T4 honours, where he faces additional competition from fellow Saudi drivers, Ahmed Al-Shegawi, motor sporting all-rounder Saeed Al-Mouri, and Hamad Al-Harbi.
Total distance 843.51 km
Selective section distance: 449.87 km
Number of selective sections: 3